People and Politics: May 2011
Clean shave. When Representative Milo Smith grew his beard in protest over the five-week walkout by Indiana House Democrats he probably didn’t foresee the charitable aspect of the gesture. But Smith in April submitted to being shaved by Governor Mitch Daniels, known as The Blade when he was federal budget director under President George W. Bush, to help raise some $5,000 for two staffers recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Smith went on the auction block as a number of House members bid for the chance to sheer off the whiskers, and then two constituents promised $1,000 if the governor would do the honors. The governor agreed, and the House members donated their highest bids to the cause. They also held a bake sale to help the women.
A win is a win. It’s been a particularly long election season for Texas Representative Donna Howard. She won in November against opponent Dan Neil, but by the slimmest of margins—16 votes. A recount dropped the number to 12, and Neil contested the election, sending it to the House where Speaker Joe Straus appointed Representative Will Hartnett to conduct a hearing. He threw out more votes until the margin eroded to only four votes. But a win is a win, and Hartnett recommended Howard retain her seat. A special House committee then took up the matter and made the same recommendation. Neil withdrew his challenge before the next step—sending the matter to the House floor for members to vote on who would fill the seat.
War of words. New Hampshire House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt has apologized to Catholic Bishop John B. McCormack for calling him a “pedophile pimp who should have been led away from the State House in handcuffs with a raincoat over his head in disgrace” on his Facebook page. The bishop had appeared at a rally at the Capitol to protest budget cuts he said would hurt the most vulnerable citizens. Bettencourt said he will not step down from his leadership post and has the support of House Speaker William O’Brien.
DUI stumble. In Arizona, Senate Republicans voted to oust Senator Scott Bundgaard from his post as majority leader following a domestic dispute with his girlfriend involving the police. The woman was arrested and jailed, but Bundgaard claimed legislative immunity. Charges against her have since been dropped, but prosecutors say they are considering charges against him. The GOP selected Senator Andy Biggs the new majority leader.
Shifting loyalties. It seems to be a trend.
- A Democrat joined the ranks of Louisiana Senate Republicans in March giving the GOP a two-seat majority in a chamber that just months ago was under Democratic control. Senator Jody Amedee, first elected in 2003, announced he was switching parties. He is the third Senate Democrat to change parties in the past five months. The others are Senators John Alario and John Smith. The Republicans took control of the chamber in March following a special election won by Republican Jonathan Perry. And in the House, Representative Billy Chandler also switched parties to join the GOP majority. “We do not expect he will be the last. This is a continuing sign of the shift in philosophy toward conservative principles across this state,” said Senator Danny Martiny.
- In Mississippi, Senator Ezell Lee switched from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP a 27-25 majority.
- In Tennessee, Republican Kerry Roberts won in a landslide against his Democratic opponent in a special election to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Representative Diane Black.
- And in Arkansas, Republican Bruce Cozart won a special election to fill the House seat of Keith Crass, who died about a week before the general election, but nevertheless was elected posthumously. A new election was set after the seat was declared vacated. His victory gives the GOP 45 votes to the Democrats’ 54.
New boss. Florida Representative Will Weatherford has been designated speaker of the House for 2012 through 2014. He will succeed Speaker Dean Cannon in November 2012. Praised as “the real deal” by Governor Rick Scott and “a natural born leader” by Representative Gary Aubuchon, Weatherford is the son-in-law of former Speaker Allan Bense, and brother of Florida State University quarterback Drew Weatherford.
Writing it down. "The Stoning of Sally Kern: The Liberal Attack on Christian Conservatism and Why We Must Take a Stand” will be released in July. Written by Oklahoma Representative Sally Kern, the book relates her experiences after gaining national attention in 2008 for stating that “the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam” is homosexuality. According to the description on Amazon, Kern made her comments while talking about the principles of the Founding Fathers. Clips of the speech were posted on YouTube, which generated more than 2 million hits and what she characterizes as a “stoning” by the media.