Friday, May 12, 2006

Vance's Retreat

On June 13, 2002, S. Vance Wilkins, Jr., faced the press and said he came from another time. By a growing list of women he stood accused of being what folks used to call a “masher.” Wilkins shrugged and suggested it was once OK for men of his lofty station to force themselves on the comely hired help.


Meanwhile, loyal Republican good old boys sprang from the shadows of the ongoing GOP eavesdropping scandal, ready to cast aspersions at the motives of women saying they, too, had to fight off unwanted advances from Vance. And, Democrats smiled.

Wilkins, with his slicked-down hairdo and his big shot swagger could hardly have done more to help Democrats with winning over conservative-to-moderate women living in the suburbs. Then Attorney General Jerry Kilgore must have cringed. His signature issue was cracking down on violent crimes against women, domestic violence in particular.

On July 16, 2002, Wilkins announced he had decided to end his career as the 24th District’s representative in the General Assembly, a position he’d held since 1978. “There comes a time to move on, and now is that time,” Wilkins said in a letter to his constituents. The bad publicity had been so blistering for the month since the unapologetic serial-groper stepped down as Speaker that even the good old boys had nothing more to say.

Fast forward to the statewide election of 2005: The Democrats did far better in the suburbs than any Republican would have guessed three years before. This scandal was one of many factors that played into the surprisingly poor showing of the Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore. In spite of what pundits suggest, sometimes the voters do remember.

Illustration by F.T. Rea

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