His younger brother called his win “the crystallization of counterrevolutionary impulses” and often referred to James as “the sainted junior senator from New York.”
Buckley, identifying himself as both a Republican and Conservative, represented New York in the Senate for one term, losing in 1976 to Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
A conservative who supported free enterprise, fought big government and even opposed Republican Party members he thought were too liberal, Buckley may best be remembered as the plaintiff in a key court decision on campaign finance.
In 1976, two years after major changes were made to U.S. campaign finance law, the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo threw out mandatory limits on candidate spending as a violation of the First Amendment. The court, however, ruled that Congress could set limits on contributions.
In March 1974, Buckley shocked New York Republicans when he called on Nixon to resign to pull the nation “out of the Watergate swamp” and save the office of the presidency.
He said he acted out of “a duty to my country, to my constituents and to my beliefs. … I do so with sorrow because I am a lifelong Republican who has worked actively for Richard Nixon.”
Buckley was just the second Republican