The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

November 10, 2012

AP Interview: Alabama's last Democrat reviews career


The slogan helped propel her to victory in 1994 and to re-election in 1998. While state treasurer, she married Jim Smith, but she kept the Baxley name because that's how voters knew her.

She was term-limited as treasurer in 2002 and persuaded voters to elect her Alabama's first female lieutenant governor.

A big part of the job is presiding over the state Senate, but the male-dominated chamber didn't show her much respect initially.

One day, the senators were late showing up for the start of the Senate session. Baxley declared too few members present to do any work and adjourned for the day.

The next day was supposed to be a day off, but state law required the Senate to try to meet again to make up for the lost day. Baxley said she didn't realize that many senators had tickets for a basketball game that day. Senators were furious at her for making them miss the game, but they started showing respect.

"It had a grand impact," she said.

In 2006, Baxley decided to challenge Republican Gov. Bob Riley. She could never match him in fundraising and was never able to make the race close. Three weeks after the election, she suffered a stroke.

"I am convinced it was from the prolonged stress of that campaign," she said.

Two years later, voters put her back in public office as PSC president. She narrowly defeated Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh got elected to a different seat on the PSC in 2010, setting up Tuesday's rematch.

Baxley, who uses a wheelchair, couldn't travel the state like she once did. She raised slightly more than $100,000, while Cavanaugh had three times that.

But for Baxley, the decisive factor was being portrayed as a liberal who shared President Barack Obama's views.

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