June 11, 1995 in Nation/World

Dissing Doris First Woman Speaker In California Getting Little Respect From Colleagues

Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press
 

She’s been called a pawn, a traitor, a puppet, even Willie Brown in drag.

In the year of Angry White Males, Doris Allen is an Angry White Female who struck a deal to become the first woman ever elected speaker of the California Assembly because of the conservative, male GOP leadership’s disdain for her and her skills.

As a result, she has endured insults, threats and disrespect from those she seeks to lead.

The deal that led to her election on June 6 - Assemblyman Ross Johnson called it “this unholy alliance with Willie Brown and Democrats” - exposed the Assembly’s raw nerves.

The chamber had been in turmoil since December, when Brown pulled off a coup, maneuvering to retain his hold on the speakership despite GOP victories in the November elections.

Ever since, conservative GOP Assembly members had schemed to win the job back from the self-proclaimed Ayatollah of the Assembly.

Just when it appeared they had him, Brown engineered another coup, persuading the lightly regarded Allen to seek the job against his rival, GOP leader Jim Brulte.

At first GOP leaders snickered. They thought so little of Allen that most had backed another Republican assemblyman against her in a special election to fill a state Senate seat earlier this year.

She remembered the insult.

On Monday, Brown resigned and called for a vote on a new speaker. In a surprise move, all 39 Democrats in the chamber voted for the 59-year-old Allen, the Assembly’s longest-serving Republican who has spent her nearly 13 years in office working on fishing, school and health issues. She voted for herself, leaving the other 38 Republicans to vote for Brulte.

“Those white boys got taken, fair and square,” said Brown, the state’s most prominent black politician.

Republican leaders are so mad they’re backing a recall drive against Allen.

“I can’t imagine on what grounds they will base this recall,” she said. “I find it ironic that my commitment to the Republican Party is being questioned when I have been the only Republican with the ability to successfully unseat Willie Brown.”

Republicans were unimpressed.

Assemblyman Larry Bowler called Allen “Willie Brown in drag.”

“She’s a deviant and needs to be punished,” he said Thursday.

Allen responded: “He’s said a lot of stupid things.”

Among some other GOP comments:

“She’s betrayed every Republican in the (Orange) county and state in order to be Willie Brown’s lackey, and we’re not going to let her get away with it,” said U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, honorary chairman of a recall petition drive.

“For all practical purposes, Willie Brown is still speaker of the Assembly, but now he operates through Doris the puppet,” said Leon McKinney, president of the Orange County Young Republicans. “She’s a disgrace to the party.”

“The first woman speaker got there by virtue of a bald-faced deal, period, regardless of ability. It’s not anything that women should trumpet,” said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the Claremont Graduate School.

“I think it’s an example of reverse Darwinism,” said Dean Andal, a member of the state Board of Equalization. “Take one of the weakest members of the Legislature, one of the least active and the least like a leader and make her speaker. It’s the best thing for Willie: He can’t be speaker, so he picks someone he can control.”

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