People and Politics: March 2010
Mr. 41. During Massachusetts state Senator Scott Brown’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate, the chant among his supporters—and in the media—was “41, 41, 41,” meaning, of course, that his victory would give Republicans their 41st vote in the Senate. But Brown also becomes the 41st member of the U.S. Senate to have previously served in a state legislature. Like President Obama and a handful of others, he made the jump to the U.S. Senate directly from a state senate.
New chief. Debbie Dorris Koreski is the new chief of staff for Oregon Speaker Dave Hunt. She had been Hunt’s legislative director since 2007 when he became majority leader. He was elected speaker last year. She replaces Jeanne Atkins, who left to become state director for U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who preceded Hunt as Assembly speaker.
Republican first. The Oklahoma Republican Caucus has “voted to place policy over politics” and not elect the next Senate president pro tem designee until after the November general election. Senator Glenn Coffee is the current pro tem in the term-limited state—the first Republican ever to hold that position. Coffee was co-president pro tem in 2007-2008 with Senator Mike Morgan while the Senate was tied 24-24. Republicans took control by a two-seat margin in 2008 for the first time since statehood in 1907. Coffee is unable to run for re-election in 2010 because of term limits.
New caucus leader. California Assemblyman Martin Garrick has been named Republican leader by his caucus, replacing Sam Blakeslee who will leave office this year because of term limits. Garrick was assistant Republican leader last session. He started his political career on Ronald Reagan’s White House transition team and later as the administration’s deputy liaison for the House and Senate. Elected in 2006, he promised to hold a hard line against tax increases to deal with California’s severe budget deficit.
Veteran says goodbye. Long-time Wisconsin lawmaker Alan Lasee, former Senate president and 36-year veteran of the Wisconsin Legislature, announced he is retiring. The 72-year-old llama, camel and fainting goat farmer was elected to the Assembly in 1974 and moved to the Senate in a special election in 1977. He lost his leadership post in 2007 when Democrats took control of the Senate.
Sergeant recuperates. For the first time in more than 40 years, the West Virginia House of Delegates’ sergeant-at-arms was not on the job when the governor gave his state of the state address. Oce Smith, 72, the longest serving sergeant-at-arms in the state’s history, was recuperating from an aortic dissection he suffered nearly a year ago. But he watched the speech on television and keeps up with politics through the newspaper and friends at the Capitol. House Majority Whip Mike Caputo says Smith has been a source of guidance to numerous legislators throughout the years. “People just don’t know how many times delegates will go to Oce for advice.” Smith hopes to return, but predicts a quiet session with the election coming up.
Pregnant session. Utah Representative Christine Johnson is expecting more than the usual hectic legislative session this year. She is expecting a baby. Not so unusual perhaps, but Johnson, a lesbian, is the surrogate mother for two gay men. She decided to become impregnated with the sperm of one because state law prevents unmarried couples from adopting a child, and Utah does not recognize gay marriage. Johnson, 41, has a 17-year-old daughter from a two-year marriage. The new baby is due in June.