John Jr.
American politician
John Jr.
John Rettie "Jock" McKernan, Jr. is an American politician who served two terms as the 71st Governor of Maine, from 1987 to 1995. Born in Bangor, Maine, McKernan attended Dartmouth College and then the University of Maine School of Law. A Republican, McKernan was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming Governor. He also served in the State House from 1973 to 1977 and was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1976 and 1984.
John R. McKernan, Jr.'s personal information overview.
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  • 1989
    Age 40
    In 1989, he married eventual U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe after the two had been dating for roughly six years.
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  • 1983
    Age 34
    McKernan and Snowe met while serving in the Maine House of Representatives and again served together in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 1987.
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  • 1978
    Age 29
    McKernan has been married twice. His first marriage was to Judith Files. They had one child together, Peter McKernan, but the couple subsequently divorced in 1978.
    More Details Hide Details On January 23, 1991, Peter died of a previously undetected heart problem after lying in a coma for nine days. He had collapsed during baseball practice at Dartmouth College. He was 20 years old at the time, played junior varsity baseball at Dartmouth and had recently joined the school's Beta Theta Pi fraternity
    While he served in the House, he had the unusual distinction of dating the other member of Maine's House delegation – Olympia Snowe. The two had met while they had earlier served in the Maine House of Representatives, and began dating in 1978.
    More Details Hide Details During their time together in Congress, McKernan and Snowe had nearly identical voting records. Their similar feelings on issues even translated into reversals of opinion – for example, they both switched from opposing aid to the Nicaraguan rebels to later supporting such aid. While their relationship was widely known, it was not reported much by the Maine press. McKernan retired from Congress in order to run for Governor in 1987. Before the 1986 election, no Republican had occupied the Blaine House in two decades. Incumbent governor Joseph E. Brennan was term limited and could not run again. McKernan immediately threw his hat in the ring for governor, and Brennan declared his candidacy for McKernan's old congressional seat in the first district (which he would eventually go on to win). His opponent was James E. Tierney, former Majority Leader of the Maine House and state Attorney General – though he did also face two independent candidates, Sherry Huber and John Menario. He based his campaign on better schools and better jobs, believing them to be the keys to making Maine (in his words) "the very best place in America to live, to work and to raise a family." He pledged to pursue both goals without a major tax increase. Additionally, McKernan focused on economic development, claiming that Maine can become what he dubbed "the opportunity state". After a spirited campaign, McKernan emerged on top, besting Tierney by a nine point margin.
  • 1976
    Age 27
    McKernan's second term became defined by partisan battles with the state legislature's Democratic majority over fiscal management, given a large budget deficit and a constitution that prohibited borrowing to offset budget gaps. He threatened to invoke a 1976 law permitting the governor to make "fair and equitable" spending reductions to comply with the state's balanced-budget mandate.
    More Details Hide Details His specific controversial actions included drafting plans to cut spending unilaterally and rewriting rules to give state agencies more discretion in how they allocate their reduced funds. Democrats objected and took McKernan to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, but the court upheld the governor's authority to take such action. McKernan also battled with Democrats about state workmen's compensation costs, eventually settling with them for a roughly 26% decrease in spending. When participating in a forum after his governorship was over, McKernan spoke at length about a number of things he felt were successes in his tenure, as well as his own personal disappointments. According to McKernan, his most prominent milestone was preparing the state for a global economy. He made note that during his stewardship, Maine competed not just with other states, but globally in such countries as Malaysia and Hong Kong. He also mentioned enhancing the state's business climate and workers compensation reforms as significant achievements.
    He left the state legislature in 1976 to begin practicing law at a Portland law firm. McKernan was twice elected to the United States House of Representatives, in 1982 and 1984.
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  • 1972
    Age 23
    McKernan's first entry into politics was being elected to the Maine House of Representatives in 1972.
    More Details Hide Details He did so as one of the youngest ever to serve in that capacity, being only 24 years old. He was later elected to a second term, where his colleagues selected him as assistant Republican floor leader.
  • 1970
    Age 21
    He then returned to Maine and joined the Maine Army National Guard, which he served in from 1970 until 1973.
    More Details Hide Details During this time, he moved to Portland, Maine to pursue graduate studies at the University of Maine School of Law. He completed his law degree in 1974, while already serving in the Maine House of Representatives.
    After graduating, McKernan attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1970.
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  • 1948
    John McKernan was born in Bangor, Maine in May 1948, the son of Barbara Guild McKernan and John R. McKernan, Sr. He grew up there, attending public schools in the Bangor school system all the way through High School.
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