This article was written by Meg Cullar and published in the Baylor Line Spring 2001 issue.
One of the brightest spots in the political firmament, Ann Richards’s light is still shining.
NOT LONG AFTER HER INAUGURATION AS GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, Ann Richards paid a visit to her hometown of Waco. She was greeted warmly by a group of supporters and old friends, among them the late Bob Thomas ’58 , JD ’60, who was chief justice of the Tenth Court of Appeals in Waco. As usual, the judge greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.
“I believe that’s the first time I’ve ever kissed a governor of Texas,” he commented.
“Aw, naw it isn’t, Bobby,” quipped the governor. “It’s just the first time you’ve kissed one on the face.” It’s that snappy wit, delivered on demand and with a jovial twang, that helped bump Richards, a 1954 Baylor graduate, from the ranks of ordinary politicians into legendary status. Though she’s never held a national political office, the former governor has the kind of celebrity typically reserved for those who hold such positions.
Richards has led a more private life since she left office, but she can’t really escape her fame. When she walks into a room, accompanied by that cloud of snowy hair and her over-the-top drawl, heads inevitably turn. We were at the White House for a Christmas party,” said her oldest daughter, Cecile Richards, “and I just sort of stood back and marveled at how people relate to her—people who don’t know her, have never met her, but have no problem just running up and hugging her and saying, Ann, I’ve just always wanted to meet you.”
When asked for a description of her mother, forty-three-year-old Cecile had to think for a minute. Then she said, “She has a personal magnetism that you just can’t explain; she connects with people?’ Reluctantly, she added, “I’m going to hate seeing this in print, but it’s kind of a rock-star quality.”
More than six years after leaving public office, Ann Richards, now sixty-seven years old, still carries significant political weight. Despite losing the governorship of Texas to George W. Bush in 1994, she has remained in the thick of political battles—but now primarily as a lobbyist. In 1995, she took a job as a “senior advisor” for the law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson, and Hand, where two of the name partners were longtime friends of hers. “She’s a superstar of lobbying,” said one observer. “The list of people who take her seriously is very long.”
In addition, you can still catch her doling out salty political observations on national television shows like Politically Incorrect or Larry King Live. CNN and the King show had an exclusive deal for Richards’s political commentary during last fall’s elections. During the 2000 campaign season, she also spent a lot of time making speeches—both for hire and for political friends.
“I did probably thirty states last year for people who were running for the House or the Senate, plus a few governors,” she said. Though she’s been a longtime supporter and friend of Al Gore, she said she didn’t stump much for him. “Here’s the reason,” she explained. “You can be a warm-up act for a presidential candidate, but the reality is that you’re not vital to the process; anyone can do that. But I can go to a congressional district where someone needs to raise money, and I can seriously help them by making a dinner speech or attending a reception or rally. So I do that because I feel like it’s a moral, worthwhile expenditure of time and that I’m truly going to affect the outcome.”
She also spends time promoting the healthy lifestyle she’s discovered since leaving public office. She makes speeches and chats it up with the likes of The Early Show‘s Bryant Gumbel in an effort to educate post-menopausal women about exercise and dietary practices that can counteract the effects of osteoporosis. She works out with weights and has eliminated fats and carbohydrates from her diet. As a result, she’s dropped three dress sizes, but she claims it’s more about being strong than about looking good.
She looks maaavelous
Still, she does look good. And she acts like she knows it. At a backyard San Antonio fundraiser, she told the audience, “I know what you’re thinking. . . . ‘Gawd, she looks great.'”
These days she’s more likely than not to be sporting a Hillary-style pants suit and flat shoes than one of the more elaborate dress suits she typically donned as governor. And her hair has come down a notch, too. Cropped closer in the back, it carries a casual fluff on top to replace that gravity-defying bouffant of gubernatorial days. But it’s still blindingly white and stunning. And on her lapel, as always, you’ll find a Texas star.
Richards splits her time between Washington and Austin, where she’s set up shop in a downtown high-rise. Verner Liipfert opened the office just for her, and the firm has since added a half dozen attorneys also working out of Austin.
Richards’s office suite, housing her and an assistant, is modest and almost temporary-looking, with stark white walls adorned only with a few large pieces of art and a pair of wire-rigged, postmodern light fixtures in the waiting area. In mid-November an unoccupied reception desk still held a plastic jack-o-lantern.
Her private office space is similar—minus the jack-o-lantern. The walls are mostly bare except for one large original oil painting, but personal items occupy space on nearly every surface. Behind her executive tabletop desk, an old-fashioned roll-top is cluttered with photos of her family, especially grandchildren, and a picture of herself with Steven Spielberg. On a bookshelf, there’s her picture with Hillary Clinton and one of Bill Clinton and Liz Carpenter—all personal friends. Her desk area holds a computer along with a coiled clay pot and a pencil holder, obviously the handiwork of some of her seven grandchildren.
Most of Richards’s time is devoted to lobbying for Verner Liipfert clients, with the rest going to her positions on a few corporate boards and a good bit of speech-making, which, she said, accounts for half of her income. “It’s unbelievable that people will pay you the amount of money they do to come and make a speech,” she marveled.
Richards spends a week or more each month in Washington, D.C., the only place she’s lobbying—so far. “When I first got out of office, I thought it would be a little unseemly that you would be a governor and then try to influence people that you had just worked with. At some time I might do that, but as of yet I have not.”
She’s also reluctant to talk about her clients and exactly what she does for them. “Clients prefer anonymity more than anything else,” she said. “What they want me to do is not to publicize them, but to effectuate their business in Washington, and I’m very good at it. I’m surprised at how good I am at it.”
However, because of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, keeping her clients’ identities a secret is one thing she’s not able to effectuate. Gleaning information from disclosure reports required by law, a nonprofit organization called the Center for Responsible Politics lists all lobbyists and their clients on a website.
Richards’s list for 1997 included fourteen clients, mostly heavy-weights in their respective industries—Lockhead Martin, Conrail Inc., and tobacco giants Brown and Williamson, Loews, Phillip Morris, and RJR Nabisco. Her clients also included several health-care-related companies and the City of Austin. In 1998, the list grew, adding the financial companies Citigroup and American Financial Services Association, plus telecommunications company SBC Communications and the Texas Manufactured Housing Association, among others.
By 1999, Richards had honed her clients to half a dozen; the biggest were real estate developer Mills Corporation and SBC Communications. She continued to represent American Financial, the manufactured housing group, and the City of Austin, but the tobacco companies had dropped off the list.
Richards says that, while she likes being a lobbyist, she doesn’t think of herself as an influence peddler. “What I like the best is not what you think lobbying is,” she said. “I like the strategic planning for how to get from A to Z. I think my principal value to my clients is knowing what they ought to do – not so much trying to get someone to vote one way or the other.”
Along with her law firm, Richards has taken some criticism in the press for representing the big tobacco firms as they negotiated settlements with state governments, but it’s nothing compared to the kind of grief she took during her days as a public official.
“I don’t think there’s been a downside,” said daughter Cecile about her mother’s work as a lobbyist. “Certainly the hardest times on me were during campaigns, when some hurtful things were said or done. I took it ten times worse than she did, I’m sure.”
Richards’ parents, both now deceased, made similar comments in an interview at their Waco home nearly a decade ago. “The hardest thing was the campaign,” Cecil Willis said of his daughter’s run against Republican Clayton Williams. “I’m talking about that guy calling Ann all those names and that kind of stuff. I didn’t like that.” Ona Willis agreed, saying that it was likely tougher on her than on the governor herself. “Her hide is probably tougher than mine.”
Mama knows best
But Ona Willis’s hide was plenty tough, and she made sure her daughter’s was as well. Richards grew up in Lakeview, a small town just north of Waco. “I don’t know why in the world it would be called Lakeview; there was no lake to view,” she often quips about the town. Her parents provided a strict upbringing, teaching their daughter the value of hard work. “My parents never wanted me to have to work as hard as they did. But that was all I ever saw them do, and the message I got was that the only thing of any real value in life is hard work,” she recalled.
It was Richards’s mother who, in 1950, “persuaded” her talented daughter to go to Baylor. That was Mrs. Willis’s story, anyway. According to the former governor, “I went to Baylor because my parents would not let me leave Waco. I was an only child, and neither of them had been to college. As far as they were concerned, there was nothing greater than Baylor.”
As the state high school champion in women’s debate, Richards was offered scholarships from several schools, but she did what Mama wanted, going to Baylor and living at home. For the second semester of her freshman year, though, she convinced her mother to let her live on campus in Alexander Hall.
“There were so many rules,” she said of campus life, “there was no way you could exist and not break ten a day” One of her favorites, she said, was the rule that, “When seated on the grass, you must remain in an upright position at all times. I always liked that one.”
Richards said she’s sure she was on the prayer lists of a number of Baylor students, especially her roommates in Alexander. “One of them wanted to marry a preacher, and the other wanted to be a missionary,” she remembered. “I think they liked me, but they were scandalized by me. I didn’t have the cleanest language. I always loved jokes—dirty jokes—so I told those freely.”
But her biggest transgression, she confessed, was smoking—on campus. “We used to park a car over by the bear pit, and everybody knew whose car was going to be there that day” she explained. “So you could go and get in the car and get down on the floor of the car and smoke cigarette.”’ Needless to say, she wasn’t exactly in an upright position.
While she never went so far as to sneak out after the 8:15 P.M. curfew, she said, “If there had been any way I thought I could have gotten away with it, or if someone would have gone with me, I certainly would have.”
She doesn’t regret breaking any rules, either. “To tell you the honest-to-God truth, I don’t think you get to be the governor of Texas by being a straight arrow,” she said “You’ve gotta be willing to break some crockery. You gotta be able to push the envelope a little bit.”
At just about the same time in her Baylor career, Richards “got religion,” according to the autobiography she wrote in 1989. “I was saved by Billy Graham when he came through the campus,” she wrote, calling Graham a “tremendously attractive, charismatic young man” who was “as glamorous as one-arm driving.”
But she admitted that the real driving force behind her heightened religious interests may have been a different handsome young man. Although the young Ann Willis was still dating high school beau David Richards, who was then at the University of Texas, she said, “I was in love with a preacher named James Slatton.” Slatton ’54, who had been the national high school champion in men’s debate, was also a scholarship student at Baylor. “It was pretty intense,’ Richards told the Line. “In fact, I suspect that’s why my mother moved me out of the dormitory; she was so afraid I was going to marry that preacher.”
Slatton, who confirmed that he and Richards were “sweethearts,” said he didn’t really know what made Richards move home. “But she did, at the end of that year, move home and move on with her life,” he said. If it was the work of her mother, he added, “She probably did the right thing for both of us.” Slatton, after going on to earn a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, did indeed become a preacher, and now he leads a church in Richmond, Virginia.
“Poor Mama, bless her heart,” Richards said with a sigh, “I was always a trial for her.”
But it wasn’t just Mama who thought going to Baylor made sense. With its strong reputation in debate circles, the school was a natural choice for a crack debater like Richards. And working with Professor Glenn Capp, Richards has said time and again, meant working with the best. She counts the “Prof,” who led Baylor’s debate program from 1934 to 1981 and died in December 1998, as one of her greatest influences. She has said that Capp taught her the communication skills essential to her later success in public office.
Professor Capp also smoked, Richards noted, even though smoking was prohibited on campus. “So Professor Capp and a number of other professors used to go the edge of campus, and they’d keep one foot in the street and one foot up on the curb and smoke a cigarette,” she said. “That was considered `off campus.’”
Richards said that, until the mid-1980s, she had always believed her feminist streak was inspired by her experience raising her daughters. But one day Professor Capp reminded her of a story from her student days. The boys were always taken to a debate tournament at Notre Dame, and it was an all-male tournament,” she recounted. “So I was irritated by that, he told me, and I came in and told him it wasn’t fair.”
Capp told his student he’d think about her concerns. “And, to his credit, he told me he decided I was right,” she said. “So he took us on a trip to Louisiana. Isn’t that remarkable? Why would I have done that? I have not the foggiest idea why the business of justice or injustice for women would have occurred to me at that age. My mother certainly was not that way.”
Another favorite professor was Dr. Ralph Lynn, whom she called “hero of all heroes, imparter of all good knowledge, just the most wonderful man I think I ever knew.” The admiration is returned by Lynn. Inside five minutes, he can drop an impressive load of adjectives as he talks about his former student: “unique, bright, wonderful, unorthodox, breezy.” Not to mention the nouns: “She was a delight. . . . She’s a whiz, of course. . . . She’s a bird.”
When Richards announced her run for re-election as governor, Lynn, along with hundreds of others, attended the rally, held on the lawn outside the four-room house where Richards was born. “She announced to the whole group that if she hadn’t been so dizzy, she’d have married me,” Lynn said. “She doesn’t miss any bits.”
But she may have meant it. After all, she named her oldest child, Lynn Cecile, after her father, Cecil, and Ralph Lynn. The man she did marry was Waco High School sweetheart David Richards, who would become her husband of thirty years and the father of her four children. They married in May of 1953, following her junior year at Baylor. She dropped off the debate team, and her husband transferred to Baylor while she finished her degree. In June of 1954, they moved to Austin, where Ann earned a teaching certificate at the University of Texas and David attended law school.
After the birth of Cecile in 1957, the Richards family moved to Dallas. Theirs was a typical 1950s marriage—she managed the home, raising chickens as well as children and baking her own bread, while he built a career. Her earliest political contributions, she asserts, were of the most basic type—stuffing envelopes, giving out bumper stickers, and arranging rides to the polls on election day.
While she downplays her first two decades in politics, Richards’s escapades in democracy during that time have a certain Forrest Gump-like quality. She rubbed elbows with almost everyone who was anyone in Texas politics—from Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez to President Lyndon Johnson.
In 1969, the family moved to Austin, and the busy home-maker and mother of four vowed to stay out of politics forever. But in 1971, Richards was yet again approached to help out. This time, however, the job wasn’t just stuffing envelopes. She was asked to be the campaign manager for Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who had successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court, in a run for the Texas legislature. Richards said she was happily surprised at Weddington’s victory, but she added that, “The nice thing for me was that Sarah went to the Texas House of Representatives to serve, and I went home.”
Richards went on to hold leadership positions in several other campaigns, but when the party was looking for a candidate to run for county commissioner in 1975, it was her husband they asked. It was only after he had turned them down that they asked Ann.
“I was afraid that if I ran for public office and I was successful and served, it would be the end of my marriage,” she said. “The truth of the matter is that men expect someone to put food on the table for them—to provide for all of those little things that keep life together.” She realized that campaigning and holding office would require her full-time attention. But when she told the party no, David told her she was making a mistake. As Richards remembers it, “He said, ‘You will wonder all your life whether you could have done it or not. And in the end, you’ll probably be good at it.'”
And so she was. On the Travis County Commissioner’s Court, Richards quickly proved that she was more than just a skilled campaigner; she knew how to organize and manage the operations of the county.
One of her toughest jobs as a commissioner was winning over the loyalty of the men of the county road crew, a group that was fiercely loyal to the twelve-year incumbent whom she’d ousted. So she gathered the thirty men for a meeting at the road office and planned a speech. As she entered the office, she passed a dog lying in the doorway. “It was a real ugly, coarse-haired animal with big liver spots,” she remembered.
After delivering her prepared speech, she asked for questions. There were none. “Finally, to break the ice, I asked them about their dog,” she said. “Texas men will always talk about their dogs.”
Still nothing. She wondered whether the dog had an unseemly name, so she told them, “Let me tell you that I am the only child of a very rough-talking father. So don’t be embarrassed about your language. I’ve either heard it, or I can top it.”
Finally, someone in the back row offered, “Well, you’re gonna find out sooner or later—her name is Ann Richards.” Richards broke out laughing, and all the men did, too. Then a younger man in the front row added, “But we call her Miss Ann!” Richards had made friends of her toughest foes.
But as Richards’s political capital was climbing upward, her marriage was spiraling downward. She and her husband separated in 1981 and divorced in 1984. Also spiraling out of control around that time was her drinking. In 1980, friends and family sat Richards down for an intervention session. She went immediately to a residential treatment facility for a month and never looked back.
Though she had openly talked with family and friends about her alcoholism, she initially kept it out of the public eye on the advice of friends. But it wasn’t a secret she would keep for long.
In 1982, a friend called and urged Richards to run for state treasurer. The current treasurer, Democrat Warren G. Harding, was in ethical hot water, and the party didn’t want to be stuck without a good candidate. Richards had two days to decide. During that time, she talked to dozens of friends and party insiders, raised $200,000 in pledges, and found out exactly what it was that a state treasurer actually did.
Then came the bomb. During the primary race for treasurer, one of Richards’s opponents held a press conference to declare that Richards was an alcoholic, had been treated for alcoholism, had a mental disorder, and had sought counseling for mental problems. The opponent preceded her around the state announcing his accusations to the press. “I told them that, yes, I certainly was an alcoholic, and I had received treatment and was in recovery and felt very positive about that,” Richards said. “What was intended as a scandalous revelation was turned to my favor by the fact that I didn’t run and hide from it.”
In 1982, Richards shared the Democratic party ticket with two other Baylor graduates: Mark White for governor and Jim Mattox for attorney general. All three won. Richards was the first woman elected to state-wide office in fifty years, and she was reelected in 1986.
Her record as treasurer was stunning. Her radical streamlining of an inefficient department earned more than $2 billion in nontax revenue for the state of Texas. Though an unabashed feminist, she had conservative bankers singing her praises.
As it turned out, Richards had what it took to get elected—charm, wit, and intelligence—and what it took to govern—organizational skills.
Ann Richards’s place in the national spotlight was established in 1988 with her keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. Her debut is perhaps best remembered for the line: “Poor George, he can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
It was a classic speech that she began with these words: “After listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to know what a real Texas accent sounds like.”
Though her speech didn’t pack enough punch to put the senior Bush down for the count, it was enough to give her the boost she needed to rise up another political notch. On November 6, 1990, two years after George Bush was elected president, Ann Richards was elected the governor of Texas. She was the first woman ever to do so on her own merits; Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, the first female governor, had served in the 1930s, but only on the coattails of her recently impeached husband.
Richards was such a popular governor that, in July 1992, Texas Monthly published a feature story on the possibility of an Ann Richards bid for president. The cover shot is a Texas Monthly icon—Richards as a “White Hot Mama” posed astride a Harley-Davidson. The shot was faked, with a model sitting in for the body of Richards, who was too busy for a lengthy photo shoot.
But Richards was not to be the next Texan to occupy the White House—or even the governor’s mansion. Many of her friends remain perplexed about how a governor with an approval rating above 60 percent could lose her office to George W. Bush in 1994. Many believed she lost her focus. Some thought she ran a sloppy campaign. Others said it was the gun issue.
When asked to pinpoint her biggest political mistake, Richards said, “I was unwilling to suck up to some people that felt they deserved it and who would have helped me. That’s a political mis-take, but it doesn’t mean it was a mistake in the sense of doing the right thing. And a very good example is concealed weapons. I couldn’t compromise on that.”
Though she’s wavered in her response to the question over the years, Richards said her most important accomplishment as governor was appointing more women and minorities to positions of power than all the previous Texas governors combined. “That was a great step forward,” she said. ‘Although other governors will not meet that mark, they will not be able to make appointments the old way again. You know, it would just be too embarrassing.”
As the nation watched President-elect George W. Bush in mid-December as he doled out his first Cabinet appointments to women and minorities, Richards’s words seemed particularly poignant.
Perhaps she would take some solace in the notion that, by setting the mark high for Bush as governor, she had something to do with those appointments. But it isn’t likely she’d want her name directly linked to Bush’s. During the campaign and the post-election controversy, she was notably uncharitable in her assessments of Bush. Even a supposed compliment about Bush’s focused campaigning packed a strong backhand: “If you ask George Bush what time it is, he’ll say, ‘I think Americans have the right to bear arms.'” And asked during a December television appearance about Bush’s ability to bring people together, she said, “He worked very hard on that for the things he cared about, but there was an awful lot that he didn’t care anything about.”
It’s vintage Richards that her loss to Bush, certainly unintended on her part, ended up having such a powerful impact on national politics. Poor Ann, she can’t help it. She was destined for presidential influence—one way or another.
It would be easy to get bogged down in analyzing Richards’s loss to Bush. But whatever its causes or consequences were, they don’t overshadow her accomplishments as governor.
Richards had vowed to create a “New Texas” and to return the government to the people, and she wasted no time in doing it. Half of her four hundred gubernatorial appointments went to women or minorities. Many observers believe her popularity helped usher many more women into big-time politics. In 1990, as Richards entered office, there were twenty-eight women in the U.S. House of Representatives and just two in the U.S. Senate. By 1994, when Richards left office, those numbers had jumped to forty-seven in the House and six in the Senate. This year thirteen female senators and fifty-nine female representatives took office, and five women were governors—the most ever to serve simultaneously.
As governor, Richards set a progressive agenda in a traditionally conservative state and made significant progress. She forced the resignations of Republican appointees to the agencies regulating insurance, water, and public utilities so she could move forward with her vision for reform in those areas.
She increased space in Texas prisons and instituted a substance-abuse program for prisoners. During her tenure, the state became the national leader in the creation of new manufacturing facilities and new or expanded corporate facilities.
“What our notoriously weak governors actually do is set a tone for the state,” wrote columnist Molly Ivins. “So let it be recorded that for four brief shining years, Ann Richards gave the joint some class.”
Baylor’s Ralph Lynn agreed. “For the first time in a long time, she gave stature to the office,” he said. “Many of her predecessors had no stature except that conferred upon them by their election to the office. But she conferred stature on the office, and we can all be proud of her.”
Richards said one of the most remarkable things accomplished during her governorship was the recovery of the Texas economy. “We were $6 billion in the hole in state government when I came into office,” she said. “I left George W. Bush $2 billion in the black.”
While she’s also proud of her accomplishments in education, she noted, “The reality was that we built on what was started by Mark White, another good Baylor graduate.”
But part of Richards’s charm has always been her ability not to take herself too seriously. She celebrated her sixtieth birthday with an event to remember. In her honor, Texas legends came out of the woodwork—Don Henley, Lyle Lovett, Molly Ivins, Liz Smith, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas playwright Larry King.
Before the performance, as the thousands of attendees waited outside, a vendor distributed cotton candy. Printed on each paper cone, beneath a tuft of pink or blue spun sugar, was the smiling face of Ann Richards.
In her life after the governorship, Richards’s style has been notably more relaxed, but she’s still going strong and working hard. “I ought to be babysitting my grandchildren and learning to tat,” she said, “but I’m just not cut out for that.”
She claims to be “the grandmother that brings the presents and writes the checks,” but daughter Cecile, predictably, says she’s much more. “She loves to take the kids to shows and do stuff we probably wouldn’t do,” she said. Richards and her grandkids, who call her “Mammy,” frequent New York City and Broadway shows, and they’ve been to Europe together.
“The other thing she loves to do,” said Cecile, “is go down to South Padre Island, where she has a place. She loves taking the kids fishing. She just enjoys showing them the things that she enjoys doing, and her personality is very infectious. If she thinks it’s fun and she’s having a good time, everyone else does, too.”
The growing families of Richards’s children would seem enough to keep her busy. Cecile and her husband, Kirk Adams, have three children, while Richards’s two sons, forty-one-year-old Dan and thirty-eight-year-old Clark, have two each. Her youngest daughter, thirty-six-year-old Ellen, was married this past year.
But Cecile said her mother is a woman who can’t sit still and is always wanting to do something new. She said the most important thing she ever learned from her famous mother, well before she was famous, was “never be afraid to try something new and take a risk—and she’s the perfect example of that.”
Though Richards is noncommittal about whether her latest “new” role will be her last adventure in politics, she does like the work. And she likes the rewards. According to Cecile, “She said the private sector is amazing. She told me, ‘You get out in the business world and people hire you to do a job, they pay you to do the job, and then they thank you for what you did—it’s really great! There’s an element to public service that’s somewhat unrewarding in that sense.”
During one of her regular appearances on Larry King Live, when Richards was teamed with former U.S. Senator Howard Baker for political commentary, the two agreed that being a public servant was a “calling.” Richards likened it to being a missionary. “I can’t explain it,” she told the Line, “but I think it’s real. At Baylor, I was with a lot of kids who were going to become missionaries or preachers. And none of them could really explain to you why they were going to do it. There wasn’t a blinding flash of light, and God didn’t speak out of a cloud. There was just a conviction about it—a passion about it—and it’s the same thing with public service:.”
Considering all the trouble and heartache that comes with holding an elected office, Richards said, “You have to be passionate about it, and you have to have a conviction that it’s the right thing to do.”
But Richards thinks her time in the public limelight is finished, even though last summer a few pundits were promoting her as a possible running mate for Al Gore.
“He wouldn’t have picked her,” quipped Ralph Lynn, “because she would overshadow him. Whom would she not overshadow?”
Richards said, “I never say never; maybe something really wonderful might come up, but I don’t think so. As far as elective office, my time has passed.” And that’s okay by her. “It’s very hard for the public to understand that these offices are jobs. Being governor was my job; it wasn’t who I am. It’s kind of like being in the army—once you get your discharge, you don’t have to go back. You don’t have to do it again.”