For many years, Alabama has been ridiculed in national publications for having fewer women in political leadership positions than other assumed to be progressive states. States like Colorado, New York and California were lauded for having an inordinate number of females in public office. Well, folks, take a cursory look around at Alabama’s political landscape, and it is a new day in the Heart of Dixie, and unlike the above mentioned liberal states our slate of women leaders are conservative Republicans.
Our top two most powerful leaders in the state are Governor Kay Ivey and U.S. Senator Katie Britt. If you include Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh into the mix, then the three most powerful and popular political leaders in the Heart of Dixie are women Republicans. You can eat your heart out Colorado.
This day did not just happen. These three women have been on the scene and the horizon for a while and arose the old fashioned way by rising through and within the system to get to the top of the class.
Ivey was a student leader at Auburn. She spent a decade or more working with the legislature as the lobbyist for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, then ran for and was elected state treasurer and served eight years. She then was elected lieutenant governor where she served six years. She has been governor, now, for almost six years.
Cavanaugh has been on a leadership track since her high school years in Montgomery. She became chairman of the Alabama Republican Party at a young age and has been president of the PSC for over a decade. She is the hardest working political figure in office in Alabama with a hardcore grassroots organization.
Britt also won our U.S. Senate seat the old fashioned way. She worked hard and built a statewide grassroots organization that will hold her in good stead for years to come.
All three of these ladies are conservative, yet rational and reasonable leaders. They are exemplary of southern grace, yet decisive and disciplined and dignified. They are people we can be proud of and excellent role models. All three are Alabama born and bred and know the folks of Alabama. All three are closely aligned with and have proudly been supported by Alabama’s premier and most powerful and respected political organization, the Alabama Farmers Federation (Alfa).
Currently, two of the most prominent jurists on the Alabama State Supreme Court are females. Justices Kelli Wise and Sarah Stewart grace the court. I can see our supreme court in Alabama, as well as the United States Supreme Court, being majority female in future years. The majority of law students and graduates throughout the country are female. Women will dominate this profession in the next decade, if not already.
The State Senate has two very prominent female leaders. The most powerful and proficient is veteran Mobile State Senator Vivian Figures. Senator April Weaver from Bibb/Shelby is on a fast track in the Alabama Senate.
Another sign of women taking their rightful place in the Alabama Legislature is the takeover of Republican House seats in the Shelby and Baldwin County Republican suburban districts. There were five new Republican women in these two Republican bastions that all took seats previously held by older men. Susan Dubose and Leigh Hulsey will be joining three females from Baldwin County. All three of the Baldwin County GOP seats will be held by female Republicans including Jennifer Fidler, Donna Givens and Frances Holk-Jones. Representative Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa), a relative newcomer, is a star on the horizon.
Three of the most prominent leaders in the House of Representatives are women. Representative Margie Wilcox of Mobile is in a leadership position. Representative Ginny Shaver of Cherokee County works extensively on family and adoption issues. Representative Terri Collins of Morgan County is the education guru in the Alabama House.
Speaking of education, our Alabama state board is currently made up of eight female members and only one man. This eight to one female majority really becomes nine to one because Ivey serves as ex officiate chairman of the board of education.
So, folks, as you can see, women rule in Alabama politics, and my guess is that this trend will not diminish in years to come.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature and may be reached at steveflowers.us.
See complete story in the Journal Record.