Women on rise in politics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Will 2002 be the &uot;Year of the Woman&uot; in Alabama politics?

It is possible if perhaps not probable.

In eight races for state office, there is at least one female nominee of either the Republican or Democrat party.

If six of those eight women should, in fact, be elected in November, the record book will have to be re-written.

The record for women being elected to state office is five, and that has happened in four different elections during the past half century.

The role of women in state politics in Alabama is unique.

In the 1950s and 1960s, this state … considered conservative by some, even backward by others … had more women holding elective statewide offices than any state in the nation.

Sibyl Pool started it all in 1946 when she was elected Secretary of State, and once she opened the door the parade began &045; Agnes Baggett, Annie Lola Price, Mary Texas Hurt Garner, Bettye Frink were the earlier pioneers and many others have followed.

Most notable of all was Lurleen Wallace, who was elected governor in 1966.

More recently, a number of women have been elected to the various state appellate courts.

The election of 2002 is unique because for the first time in Alabama history women have been nominated for offices which have always been held by men: Lucy Baxley is the Democrat nominee for lieutenant governor,

Susan Parker is the Democrat nominee for U.S. Senate.

Alabama has never had a woman lieutenant governor nor has a woman ever been elected to the U.S. Senate from this state.

Two women did serve briefly in the U.S. Senate by appointment … Mrs. Dixie Bibb Graves and Mrs. Jim (Maryon) Allen.

In addition to Baxley and Parker, there are women nominees for two appellate court seats this fall as well as auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and one seat on the Public Service Commission.

For decades the constitutional offices of auditor, treasurer and secretary of state were in reality &uot;for women only.&uot;

Any man who dared run for any of those slots put his political life at risk.

And a great political trivia question: Who was the man who finally broke the women’s stranglehold on any of these offices?

It was a guy named Don Siegelman, who in 1978 was elected secretary of state, the first man to be elected to that office since 1946.

That women have been successful in statewide races should not be surprising when it is remembered that their gender is in the majority.

Of Alabama’s 2.6 million registered voters some 52.8 per cent of them are women.

It has been a long time since there has been any good news about school funding, but state officials say it now seems most likely that the current year school budget will not be prorated.

Lewis Easterly, a top man with the Revenue Department, says thanks to the new taxes imposed last December that the budget will be met in full.

The Legislature boosted corporate income taxes and also added a levy on cellular phones which are expected to generate about $132 million in new revenue this year.

While this was good news, not so good was the forecast for the school appropriation for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The state is faced with an $80 million refund which could create the threat of proration.

It there is a shortfall next year, the &uot;Rainy Day Fund&uot; amendment ratified by the voters on June 4 could come into play for the first time.

The first definitive poll of the gubernatorial race between Gov. Don Siegelman and Congressman Bob Riley has been leaked to a few folks and it shows the incumbent governor holding a narrow lead &045; 47 percent to 42 percent with the remaining 11 percent undecided.

Prior to the June 4 primary elections, Riley had held a narrow lead in polls pitting him against Siegelman.

Siegelman moving to the front is no doubt due in part to the enormous power of being the incumbent governor.

Everywhere he goes Siegelman is front page news. There is no way Riley can match Siegelman’s press coverage