People and Politics: April 2011
Historic step. For the first time since Reconstruction, the Louisiana Senate is under Republican control, following a hard fought special election in which the victor, GOP Representative Jonathan Perry, won by 688 votes. In just six years, the GOP has taken over the governor’s office, both chambers in the Legislature and every constitutional statewide office. The special election was held to replace the seat vacated by Democrat Senator Nick Gautreaux, who was appointed by Governor Bobby Jindal to direct the Office of Motor Vehicles. The 20-19 Republican margin is not expected to lead to a change in the Senate presidency. Jindal has signaled he liked working with Democratic Senate President Joel Chaisson II, and Democrats are expected to continue chairing several committees.
Bowing out. Three Virginia Democrats have announced they will not seek re-election in November. (Virginia is one of several states that have off-year elections.) Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, 70, has served in the Senate since 1996. She was a member of the Arlington School Board and Country Board before her election to the Senate. Senator Patsy Ticer, who came into office the same year as Whipple, also announced her retirement. Ticer, 76, was mayor of Alexandria before running for the Senate. Delegate Albert Pollard, 43, surprised colleagues when he announced he, too, is leaving. Pollard served 10 years in the legislature, though not consecutively, and has been critical of the partisanship in the statehouse. He is the great grandson of Virginia’s 51st governor, John Garland Pollard, and second cousin of former Lieutenant Governor Fred Pollard.
Soup's on. The Louisiana House dining hall, where lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters and staff meet and eat, has been closed since December when its longtime operator died. But House Speaker Jim Tucker has chosen a new caterer and doors reopened in time for the March 20 special session on redistricting. A group that owns two restaurants and a catering business has taken over the culinary responsibilities at the Capitol.
Lending a hand. It’s all in a day’s work. When Oklahoma Representative Dustin Roberts saw a man wrestling with a state trooper on the side of the highway while on his was to Oklahoma City for a legislative meeting, he stopped to offer assistance, along with another driver. After identifying himself as a state lawmaker, the trooper accepted help, and Roberts ended up handcuffing the man. There was a 10-pound brick of marijuana in the man’s car.
"Hollywood" leaves. Assistant Majority Leader Rickey Hendon surprised colleagues when he abruptly announced his resignation from the Illinois House in February. The flamboyant Chicago-area lawmaker, nicknamed “Hollywood,” said he was disillusioned with the African-American vote numbers in the recent mayoral election. Hendon came into office in 1993.
She'll be missed. Millie McFarland, the respected clerk of the Maine House for 10 years and member of the Mason’s Manual Commission, retired in February as a result of the Republican take-over of the chamber. McFarland worked for the Legislature for 32 years, and honed her parliamentary skills under two clerks—Ed Pert, for whom she worked 14 years, and Joe Mayo, who stepped down in 2000 because of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. McFarland was honored by the organization, Emerge Maine, as Woman of the Year on the 90th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment. “She embodies what it means to be a public servant,” the group said. Heather Priest, a former GOP staff member, succeeded McFarland as clerk. Secretary of the Senate Joy O’Brien was replaced by former Republican House member Joseph Carleton.
No thanks. Alaska Representative Sharon Cissna had to take the long way home after refusing to submit to a TSA pat-down following a full body scan at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The scan showed scars from her mastectomy, and TSA rules require security officers to “see and touch” a prosthetic device, cast or brace in the screening process. Cissna, who had been in Seattle for medical treatment, had gone through a pat down several months ago, and would not “submit to that horror” again. The journey back to Alaska was by car, small plane and ferry.
Survivor. Judy Hall, secretary of the Oregon Senate who worked under eight Senate presidents, including John Kitzhaber, the current governor, has retired after 36 years of legislative service, 16 years as secretary. The key to her success? “I looked at myself as a chameleon. I got to know who I was working with, what they wanted to do and how they wanted to conduct business, and how I could fit into their world—yet make it clear I would not take anything lying down. Presidents do want to get into trouble at times,” she said. During her career, Hall also served as chair of NCSL’s American Society of Clerks and Secretaries in 2002. Robert Taylor is her successor.