Ann Richards is as feisty as ever.
The former Texas governor was in Idaho several days ago to help raise money for Dan Williams’ congressional campaign against Republican Rep. Helen Chenoweth.
Richards had few good things to say about Chenoweth, House Speaker Newt Gingrich - or any of the Republicans who run Congress.
Richards moved into national political circles eight years ago with a fierce speech against George Bush at the Democratic National Convention. She was elected governor of Texas two years later, but lost the job to the ex-president’s son in the Republican landslide two years ago.
But that defeat hasn’t slowed her down. She told reporters before her speech in Boise, “I’m having the time of my life.”
Richards works about 10 days a month in Washington “visiting with people” in government agencies and Congress. The rest of the time she does what she wants, and Richards wants to spend the fall campaigning for Democrats such as Williams.
But she won’t run for office again.
“I enjoy getting up in the morning, reading the newspaper and knowing I’m not totally responsible,” she said.
But she’s still quick with a pointed remark.
If people turn out to vote, Richards said, there’s no guarantee that “the clouds will part, angels will sing and trumpets will play. But bad things will happen if you don’t vote.”
On the Republican-controlled Congress: “It looks like it’s about to break out in a food fight every day.”
And her words often drip with sarcasm.
“I’m sure that Helen Chenoweth never intended to be an advocate for the militia. The fact that she has become a poster child for them … could not have occurred intentionally.”
“But with the circumstances that took place in Oklahoma, with the killing of all those people, … I think none of us are very sympathetic with the attitude that assault weapons are good for the country,” Richards said.
A handful of gun rights advocates greeted Richards with posters claiming she and Williams are for gun control. “Ann and Dan Agree, Take Their Guns, Give Them Taxes,” one poster read.
Her response: “None of them made much sense to me, and that’s appropriate, given who probably inspired them.”
Besides the $10,000 Williams’ campaign expected to clear from the $50-per-person event, he also got a political boost from the fact the Democratic Party thinks enough of his campaign against Chenoweth to send in one of its heavy hitters.
It wasn’t Richards’ first trip to Idaho. She stayed with Bethine Church four years ago when she gave the keynote address at the Democrats’ 1992 Jefferson-Jackson Day banquet.
Williams says it was the best speech he’s heard in the 20 years he’s been going to the events.
But the event wasn’t over when Richards finished talking to reporters.
A Chenoweth campaign staffer, Tim Walsh, approached reporters in an attempt to dispute some of Richards’ statements.
State Democratic Chairman Bill Mauk intervened. “Did you pay to get in here?” he asked Walsh.
Walsh countered that the reporters didn’t pay to get in, either. Mauk suggested that Chenoweth should hold her own news conference rather than horn in on other people’s events.
Eventually Walsh and the reporters moved out of the dining area where the Richards dinner was about to begin.