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Austin Ranney, 85, scholar of political parties

LOS ANGELES -- J. Austin Ranney, an influential political scientist and a widely respected authority on political parties and elections, died July 24 at his home in Berkeley. He was 85.

Dr. Ranney died of complications from diabetes and congestive heart failure, said Nelson W. Polsby, a professor at the political science department at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Ranney headed the department from 1987 to 1991.

``He was a leading worldwide expert on parties, how they functioned, and what their role was in the society," Polsby said.

Although Dr. Ranney's tenure at Berkeley was relatively short, his influence in academia covered decades. He taught at the University of Illinois from 1947 to 1963 and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, from 1963 to 1976.

He also visited on the faculty of Yale, Georgetown, and the University of California, Davis.

From 1975 to 1985, he was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and was on the editorial board of the institute's journal Public Opinion.

Born in Cortland, N.Y., Dr. Ranney grew up in the Southern California community of Corona. A debate star in high school, he went to Northwestern University on a debate scholarship. He earned his master's degree at the University of Oregon and his doctorate at Yale.

``In some ways," Polsby said, ``his most interesting book was a study of parliamentary candidate recruitment in Britain. It was the authoritative study of that subject and a very important book for how parties contribute to democracy."

Other areas of interest were referendums and competition in political parties. ``He devised a way to study" the latter, Polsby said.

Out of the classroom, Dr. Ranney enjoyed football, music, and fine wine, and he was a student of the Civil War.

In an obituary penned by colleagues on the UC, Berkeley website, it is noted that Dr. Ranney was gratified ``that in his lifetime he saw the rehabilitation of U.S. Grant's reputation as a Civil War general."

Dr. Ranney leaves his wife, Nancy Boland Edgerton; four sons from his first marriage, Jay, Douglas, and Gordon of Madison, Wis., and David of Cupertino; two stepsons, Scott of Molalla, Ore., and Bruce of Reston, Va.; a sister, and three granddaughters.

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