Senator Percy attracted a notable primary opponent in 1984. The Illinois primary was the first in the nation that year, and it was one of a very few with a significant primary challenge against an incumbent Republican Senator.
Percy's reputation as a moderate Republican played into the decision of U.S. Rep. Thomas Corcoran to oppose him. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Percy had worked with Arab leaders in the Middle East to try to improve the lot of the Palestinian people. Sen Percy was also a leader of the effort to sell AWAC planes to Saudi Arabia. Percy was also a supporter of the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Corcoran's campaign consisted of three criticisms of Percy. His first attack was on the issue of Percy's contacts with Arab leaders. Corcoran charged Percy with being "Israel's most powerful adversary in the Senate" in an effort to gain the support of Jewish Republicans. Second, the National Pro-Life PAC mailed a flyer which showed that on issues surrounding abortion, Percy voted more with Ted Kennedy than he did with Corcoran or most Republicans. Third, near the end of the primary campaign, Corcoran charged Percy with only supporting Pres. Reagan's intitiatives when it was politically convenient.
Percy worked hard in early 1984 to defeat Corcoran. He would not repeat his 1978 re-election campaign, in which his political advisors used polls to convince him that he was headed for an easy victory, and his paucity of serious campaigning nearl[More...]