Ernõ "Ernie" Könnyű was born May 17, 1937, in Tamási, Hungary to poet, professor and cartographer Leslie Konnyu and his wife, Elizabeth, a bookkeeper and owner of a home secretarial school, and is the eldest of his two late siblings Gabriela (Helen) and Zoltan (Joseph). In 1949 the 12-year-old Konnyu, together with his family, immigrated to the United States from a post-World War II refugee camp in Ampflwang,Austria. He attended parochial and public schools in Jefferson City and St. Louis, Missouri. He attended University of Maryland, College Park and received his Bachelor of Science Degree. from Ohio State University in 1965. Konnyu served in the United States Air Force as a captain from 1959 to 1969 and as a major in the Air Force Reserve from 1970 to 1981. In 1959, he married Lillian Muenks of Loose Creek, Missouri.
Service Konnyu joined the U.S. Air Force in 1959 as an enlisted medic, served at the U.S. Air Force Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany, with a final rank of Staff Sergeant, and attended night school at the University of Maryland’s Wiesbaden campus completing two college years in four years. He applied and won in competition a coveted two year paid Air Force scholarship (Airman Education and Commissioning Program) to The Ohio State University where he majored in accounting..^3 He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1965. ^3.1 He was admitted to the Air Force Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Texas, where he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. ^3 From 1965 to 1969 he served at Nellis AFB, Nevada, as a senior auditor with a final rank of captain. He was awarded four Air Force decorations including the National Defense Medal and six ribbons including the Air Force Sharpshooter ribbon. Through his extensive community service work, Captain Konnyu was elected president of the North Las Vegas Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1968. ^2 ^4 He spent 11 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve ending with a rank of major until he received an honorable discharge retiring from the Air Force in 1997. ^3
Konnyu’s business career began in 1969 as Controller at Valley View Investments in North Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1970 he moved to Arcadia, California, where he was internal audit supervisor at Avon Products, Pasadena. Konnyu, a Certified Internal Auditor, served as corporate director of internal audit at National Semiconductor Corp. in Santa Clara, California, from 1974 to 1980. Konnyu continued his community service work with the Junior Chamber of Commerce first in Arcadia, then in San Jose, California. As a result of his extensive service to the community the Arcadia Jaycees recommended Ernie Konnyu for a lifetime Senatorship in Junior Chamber International which he received in 1973. ^5
Konnyu, a resident of San Jose since 2009 and past president of several Republican volunteer clubs, was elected an Assemblyman from 1980 through 1986 representing California's 22nd Assembly District (western and southern Santa Clara County). ^6 He cast his first two Assembly votes to elect the first woman, Carol Hallet, as Republican Leader and for the first African-American Assembly Speaker, Willie Lewis Brown Jr.. ^1 The 1985 California Legislature’s book of biographies shows Konnyu as Chairman for Policy of the Assembly Republican Caucus and vice-chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee on welfare.^6 His most notable achievement was the California workfare law, A.B. 2580, that required able bodied welfare recipients without small children, an estimated 170,000 annually as reported by the Associated Press, to work or train in exchange for their welfare check and benefits.^8 Konnyu’s workfare coauthor, Assemblyman Art Agnos who later rose to be mayor of San Francisco, penned that the law, “really helped poor people” for it gave them job training or education which assisted them in obtaining work. ^9 At the request of the Bay Area American-Hungarian community leaders, Assemblyman Konnyu arranged for the purchase and erection of the 20 feet tall bronze statue, "Gloria Victis" with the Governor George Deukmejian Administration. The statue, located in the courtyard of the California state office building on Van Ness Blvd. in San Francisco is a memorial to the 1956 Hungarian revolution which caused upon its defeat by the Soviet Armed forces tens of thousands of Hungarian war refugees coming to California.
After Konnyu’s workfare law success, he was elected in 1986 to the U.S. House of Representatives gaining 55% of the vote in his moderate district previously served by former moderate Republican Congressman Ed Zschau and maverick Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey. Konnyu’s principal legislative success was H.R. 1720, The Family Support Act of 1988 reforming the Nation’s welfare system by creating, among other things, work incentives for welfare recipients. For his leadership President Reagan issued Konnyu a letter coupled with a picture and one of the presidential pens used to sign the bill into law. ^10 Congressman Konnyu also wrote H.R. 1953, a bill to achieve human rights for the Hungarian and other ethnic minorities in Communist ruled Romania. The 35 House Republican Freshmen elected Konnyu Vice President of their Class in the 100th Congress and also their representative on the House Republican Conference’s Policy Committee. ^2
Konnyu’s House service ended after one term as former Congressman McCloskey, a Republican, identified a well-credentialed Stanford Law School professor, Tom Campbell, to run against him. ^12 McCloskey was joined by former Congressman Ed Zschau and billionaire David Packard in the effort to replace Konnyu. ^13 ^14 Campbell attacked Konnyu mainly using two women employee harassment claims printed by the San Jose Mercury News, a claim said to be “hearsay” by Congressman Zschau per the Peninsula Times Tribune . ^15 The Times Tribune also reported that Campbell called Congressman Konnyu “crass” and claimed he “humiliated a member of his staff”. ^ 14 Konnyu countered stating that asking an employee to move her nametag was not crass or humiliation and the employee agreed to the request without objection. Further, he did not consider the only other harassment claim valid because, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, he directed the complaining female employee as well as the other four staff members in Washington to simply dress more businesslike.^11 Once these newspaper listed claims were clarified, Congressman Konnyu received the written support of the House Republican Conference leadership, the 17 member California House Republican delegation, Governor George Deukmejian, the three county Republican party chairs with two of them being women, and a host of male and female Valley business leaders. ^15 ^16 ^ 17 Nevertheless, Freshman Konnyu, outspent heavily by Campbell, lost his Republican primary re-nomination receiving 41% of the vote. ^17.1
Konnyu received from 1981 through 1988 twelve signed letters from distinguished leaders as well as legislative resolutions acknowledging his help in the Assembly and in the U.S. Congress. Those include letters from President Ronald Reagan ^18 (“…you have played a crucial role in maintaining economic growth and a strong National defense.”) ^18 and Governor George Deukmajian (“your unwavering commitment to hard work and public service…”) ^19. Official resolutions thanking Congressman Konnyu for his work include the California Legislature (JRC #469 “Members express appreciation to Congressman Konnyu for his great dedication to and concern for the people of the State of California”) ^20, the California Assembly (“Member Konnyu has earned a well-deserved reputation as an honest, sincere, fiscally conservative legislator”), ^21 the counties of Santa Clara (“…his countless sacrifices made on behalf of the people of Santa Clara Valley”)^22, Santa Cruz (“…for his tireless leadership in helping to preserve the rich historical and environmental resources of the majestic Quail Hollow Ranch”)^23, and San Mateo County (on Congressman Konnyu being “inducted into the Taxpayers’ Hall of Fame”) ^24 and the cities of San Jose (“Congressman Konnyu be recognized for years of dedicated service to the citizens of San Jose”)^25, Sunnyvale (“Congressman Konnyu has been particularly effective in assisting constituents in resolving matters with government services”)^26, Cupertino (“Ernie Konnyu has taken a strong stand on law and order with the aim of making our community a safer place”) ^27, Mt. View (“His many contributions to this region, state and Nation are appreciated”) ^28, and from his then home town, Saratoga (“Congressman Konnyu is a municipal asset of the best sort”)^29.
Congressman Konnyu resumed his business career in 1989 investing in a printing business then in 1998 in a tax consulting service. He made two come-back attempts without success. After 22 years he sold his business and retired in 2011. He and his wife of 57 years reside in San Jose, California, and stay active with local, state and national professional, charity and political groups.