November 3rd, 1964: When Rochester’s Senator Keating lost to RFK in the wake of LBJ’s landslide.

November 3rd, 1964: When Rochester’s Senator Keating lost to RFK in the wake of LBJ’s landslide.

The Kenneth B. Keating Federal Building, 100 State Street. The man approaching was a security guard who said photos were not allowed. After explaining my purpose, the guard in the back said he believed my story but asked to take my name and address. According to the librarian in the RPL’s Local History Room, the guards were mistaken that photos are prohibited. The librarian cited Musumeci v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a ruling involving the NYCLU and a man who videotaped himself outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse. The court ruled that taking photographs of, or outside, any federal building is permissible. 11/03/16

In keeping with our Presidential visits to Rochester series, on November 3rd, 1964, Rochester’s Senator Kenneth B. Keating lost his re-election bid to Robert F. Kennedy


Kennedy’s 9/29/64 visit to Rochester (11/01/64)

In 1964, New York Senator Republican Kenneth Keating from Rochester faced two big obstacles in his re-election bid. In 1958, Keating had only narrowly defeated Frank Hogan by less than two percentage points.

First, Keating’s opponent was Robert Kennedy. Only nine months after JFK’s assassination, RFK walked within the aura of his slain brother.

Furthermore, Kennedy had been a popular US Attorney General under LBJ before leaving his cabinet position on August 22, 1964 to run for the senate.


(left, bottom, 7/19/62, right 8/19/64)

Second, at the top of the Republican ticket in 1964 was Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was very unpopular in New York; Kennedy was sure to ride Lyndon Johnson’s big coattails.

See LBJ and RFK in Rochester, October 15th,1964 and 56 years ago when JFK spoke at the War Memorial. Two days after his debate with Nixon. Nine days after RFK was here.

Keating had the same problems faced today by many Republican lawmakers and candidates who are wary of Donald Trump at the top of the 2016 Republican ticket.  In an October 9th article, The growing list of Republicans withdrawing support for Donald Trump, The Guardian offers a long list of prominent Republicans leaders who have disavowed Trump, many fearing for their own re-elections.

Three days ago, in Which Republicans Oppose Donald Trump? A Cheat Sheet, The Atlantic added to the list, including a report that Colin Powell might endorse Hillary Clinton.


Sat Sep 5 1964

Like other Republicans in Democratic leaning states, in 1964 Keating tried to distance himself as much as possible from Goldwater. During the Republican convention, Keating left the Cow Palace before Goldwater’s acceptance speech. During the campaign, Keating jousted with the national GOP who didn’t want Keating to reject Goldwater outright.


Sat Oct 31 1964

See “The Agony of the GOP” The Cow Palace, July 1964

In September, former Vice President Richard Nixon offered to support both Goldwater and Keating. Nixon himself had chosen not to run for President in 1964, sure that LBJ could not be beaten.

Democrat and Chronicle, 25 Oct 1964, Sun, Page 1

Democrat and Chronicle, 25 Oct 1964, Sun, Page 1

Goldwater did not campaign in Rochester, but his vice presidential candidate, NYS Representative William E. Miller from Lockport came to Rochester on October 24th.  Miller heartily endorsed Keating and said he himself would vote for Keating in November.

During the campaign, Keating portrayed Kennedy as a carpetbagger from Massachusetts. While New York State law only requires a senator be a resident at the time of election, Kennedy had only spend a short time in the state, all during his boyhood. (The same charges of carpetbaggerism were made when Hillary Clinton successfully ran for NY Senate in 2000.) After Kennedy won, a popular quip was: now Massachusetts had three senators.

Keating’s Rochester supporters also tried to dim the aura of the Kennedy name. Several dozen Rochesterians named Kennedy placed an ad in the D & C, “Kennedys for Keating,” warning against falling for the “Kennedy” spell.

Keating best hope was big crossover voting, a split ticket: Johnson for president and Keating for senator. Another ad in the D & C instructed voters how to mark a crossover ballot. And Split Ticket buttons appeared: Johnson 1-B and Keating 2-A.crossover-page0001

Keating drew big crowds at Rochester rallies.  The Seneca Indians even made Keating an honorary blood brother for backing a 15 million dollar bill to compensate the tribe for the loss of much of its Allegheny Reservation.


(left, 8/23/64, center, rally at the War Memorial, right, 9/21/64)


Kennedy at the UofR 9/30/64

Keating was very much Monroe County’s favorite son. Born in Lima, NY, Keating graduated from the University of Rochester, taught for a year at East High School, practiced law in Rochester and was Brighton’s town attorney. From 1947 – 1959, Keating represented Rochester-area districts in Congress.

As a moderate Republican leaning newspaper, it was not surprising that the Democrat and Chronicle endorsed Keating, accusing Kennedy of negative campaigning.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 23, 1964 8A NIGHT CAMPAIGN A crowd was on on his arrival at Rochester-Monroe hand to greet Sen. Kenneth Keating County airport to campaign, Sept. 21


1964 NY Senate election Red = Keating; Blue = Kennedy


Plaque on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Walk of Honor in Highland Park from LBJ and RFK in Rochester, October 15th,1964


Fri Nov 27 1964


Wed Nov 4 1964

But Kennedy also drew big crowds, including a rally at the University of Rochester. Keating’s obstacles proved too great. Kennedy won 53.5 – 43.4%. Keating did carry Monroe County and did better state wide than Goldwater.

The night of November 3rd was jubilation at the Manger Hotel and dejection at the Powers Building. After a two week vacation in the Virgin Islands, Keating returned to Rochester looking rested if not unburdened.

Upon his death in 1975, the Times-Union reviewed  Keating’s many accomplishment including making brigadier general in the Army Reserves in 1948, serving as an associate judge at the State Court of Appeals, and serving as the US Ambassador to Israel from 1969 – 1972.


The home on 3500 Elmwood Road in Brighton that Keating bequeathed to the University of Rochester 11/3/16

In his will, Keating left his Georgian Colonial home on 3500 Elmwood Road in Brighton to the University of Rochester where his papers are held in the Rush Rhees Rare Book Room.  Keating’s body was interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, Virginia.


Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Myer, VA


Times-Union, May 6, 1975 Scanned courtesy of the RPL’s Local History Division


The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Joseph Biden

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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