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Archive for June 9th, 2010

Meg & Carly’s Ivy League Adventure

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CA State Treasurer Ivy Baker Priest, pioneering Republican woman (love the hat!!)

Get used to hearing this name from now through the first Tuesday in November: Ivy Baker Priest.

In the year of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina at the top of the California Republican ticket, the late Mrs. Priest is the answer to this trivia question:

Who’s the last (and only) Republican woman to hold a statewide office in the Golden State?

Answer: IBP, twice elected State Treasurer in 1966 and 1970, the same years Ronald Reagan ran for governor.

So who was Ivy Baker Priest?

She had the sort of hard-knocks biography both Meg and Carly would kill for. She was the daughter of a Utah gold miner who struck out instead of striking it rich. The family lacking income, her mother opened a boarding house for transient miners.

That led to her mother’s interest in the larger quality of life in their community (muddy floors got her to thinking about dirty streets), which led to young Ivy getting dragged to the polls on Election Day, which in turn sparked the daughter’s lifelong fascination with politics and public service.

As a young woman, Ivy Baker Priest worked as a telephone operator and department-store clerk in Salt Lake City to support her family during the Great Depression. Meanwhile, she tried and failed at winning public office. A run for Utah’s legislature in 1934 didn’t pan out; neither did a bid for Congress in 1950 (the only race that year that featured two women vying for the same congressional seat — and a race in which IBP was unfairly smeared as a derelict housewife for leaving the husband and kids behind for the campaign trail).

All the while, though, Ivy Baker Priest organized women for Republican causes — in Utah, and across the western U.S. And she did so for Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential run in 1952 (she was the lone member of the Utah delegation to back Eisenhower instead of Ohio Sen. Robert Taft), running the women’s division of his national campaign.

Ike returned the favor by naming her U.S. Treasurer — meaning, her signature went on greenbacks. She wasn’t the first female U.S. Treasurer (Georgia Neese Clark preceded in the Truman Administration), but she was California’s first State Treasurer (Elizabeth Whitney and Kathleen Brown also have held the post in the 1980s and 1990s).

Two other things to know about Ivy Baker Priest:

Pat Priest, aka "Marilyn Munster"

1) She had a wry sense of humor, once observing: “We women don’t care too much about getting our pictures on money as long as we can get our hands on it.”

2) Like many a California politician (Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Murphy, Sheila Kuehl), she had a Hollywood connection.

Ivy’s daughter, Pat Priest, grew up to become an actress. If you’re a fan of 1960s’ sitcoms, you might recognize her as Marilyn Munster, Herman’s anything-but-scary niece on “The Munsters”.  

As we say so often: only in California . . .


Written by Bill Whalen

June 9, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Primary Answers

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Earlier this week, I posed 10 questions concerning the California primary. Here’s how voters responded:

1) Turnout. 2.285 Republicans took part in their party’s gubernatorial primary eight years ago. The Meg Whitman-Steve Poizner race fell a little short of 1.72 million voters. Yikes.

2) The Reason(s) Why Fewer Republicans Voted. IMO, a combination of three factors: the race was negative; neither Whitman nor Poizner is a born-and-bred conservative; and there are fewer Republicans today than back in 2002.

3) Whitman’s final tally. The answer is (c): over 60% (she received 64.2% the last time I checked). Click here to see all the semi-official results.

 4) Carly Fiorina’s tally.  The answer is (b): over 50% (at last glance, 56.5%).

5) The most suprising initiative surprise. IMO, the dual failure of Props 16 and 17. I’m not as surprised that Prop 14 passed so comfortably: in this climate, the last people I’d want defending my idea would be the political ruling class (in Prop 14’s case, California’s two leading political parties).

6) Fortress California. No earthquakes here, incumbency-wise. U.S. Rep Jane Harmon received an underwhelming 58% of the vote in the California 36th CD’s Democratic primary. She may be in more trouble than we realize this fall against a very telegenic Republican challenger, Mattie Fein.

7) Most annoying media aspect. My vote goes to media carping about lack of substance, when in fact they’re partly to blame for our dissatisfaction with politics by obsessing over poll numbers and regurgitating campaign’s oppo research material.

8) Biggest national story. California wins on the basis of sheer volume of attention that “ladies night” drew. In the long-term, though, it might be the Nevada vote: Harry Reid’s struggles, Sue Lowden’s loss and the Tea Party’s role as queen-maker/queen-killer in the Silver State all are fascinating commentaries about the political age in which we live.

9) Most trite phrase. The answer is: they’re all trite. Have you ever noticed how most frontrunners’ victory speeches  rarely seem heartfelt or touching?

10)  Biggest winner(s) of primary night. Far away: The two East Coast reporters who called me less than 45 minutes after the polls had closed here in California (11 p.m. EDT), able to write that the Senate and gubernatorial primaries were done deals, thrilled they wouldn’t be up all night waiting for a winner. Closer to California: Teams Whitman and Fiorina: they persevered, they conquered (each more than doubling their closest opponent), they get to move forward.

Written by Bill Whalen

June 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized