People and Politics: May 2010
A star is born. The “Green Zone,” a film about the U.S.- Iraq war released in March, stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan and … Texas Representative Allen Vaught. Actually, Vaught, an Iraq War veteran and vice chair of the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, has a small part in the film, which incorporates many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. A captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, Vaught was the de facto mayor of Fallujah during the early part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was injured in a roadside bomb. He received the Purple Heart among other commendations, and was contacted by the author of the book on which the film is based about some technical aspects of the war. Vaught plays a staff officer during a scene, and says it was “a great honor to have a small a part in the ‘Green Zone.’ I have not seen the entire film, but I expect it will be a great tribute to the veterans of the Iraq War.” The director, Paul Greengrass, whose other films include the “Bourne Ultimatum,” allowed Vaught to name his character after his son, Jonathan Vaught.
California first. Fiona Ma became California’s first Asian American to be named speaker pro tem of the Assembly. Ma was appointed to the post by Assembly Speaker John A. Perez. Ma, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was first elected to the Assembly in 2006. She served as majority whip before assuming her new leadership position.
Off to Asia. Georgia Senator David Adelman resigned his seat in March to become the U.S. ambassador to Singapore. The 45-year-old lawmaker was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2002. His departure leaves the minority caucus with a membership of 19 out of 56 seats. Adelman, who was attorney general and taught political science at the University of Georgia, is studying Mandarin and hopes to strengthen ties between the island off the southern tip of the Maylay peninsula. “Singapore is a country that punches above its weight,” Adelman says. “It’s a relatively small country, but it has a powerful economy.”
Out of the race. Don Balfour, Georgia senator and president of NCSL, has withdrawn from the congressional race to replace retiring Congressman John Linder.
Legislative pioneer. Juanita W. Goggins, civil rights trailblazer and the first African-American woman elected to the South Carolina legislature, froze to death alone in her home at age 75 in March. Just a year ago a stretch of Highway 5 was renamed in honor of the woman who led a life of exemplary public service. She was a school teacher, founder of a tutoring company and the first black woman delegate from South Carolina to the Democratic National Convention. She defeated a white male incumbent in 1974 and headed off to the State House. “I am going to Columbia to be a legislator, not just a black spot in the House chambers,” she said at the time. She worked to reduce the student-teacher ratio, expand kindergarten and improve public health. “She was truly a mover and a shaker, so well-liked and so well-loved by so many,” said Representative John King, who represents the seat Goggins once held.
New roles. Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker has reshuffled committee appointments following a close-vote challenge to his choice for speaker pro-tem. In a 53-48 vote, Representative Joel Robideaux was elected to the chamber’s second leadership post. Robideaux was challenged by Representative Noble Ellington. After the vote, Tucker reassigned Ellington to the Insurance Committee, considered a far less influential spot than his place on the House and Government Affairs Committee. Tucker also told Ellington that his apartment in the Pentagon Barracks across the street from the Capitol would be let to him on a month-to-month basis. Two other Republicans who supported Ellington—Representatives John LaBruzzo and John Schroder—lost their membership on the Appropriations Committee. Tucker appointed Representatives Rosalind Jones and James Armes III, both of whom had supported Robideaux, in their place. “In this process you only have your word, and there are a couple of folks who broke their word,” Tucker said.
Thinning the field. Former Tennessee House Democratic Leader Kim McMillan stepped out of the race for governor, deciding instead to run for mayor of Clarkesville. A month before, Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle dropped out of the race. Mike McWherter, a businessman and son of former Governor Ned McWherter, is the only Democrat left in the race. Three Republicans will face off in the August primary.