Tillie Fowler Left an Impression

When I moved to Jacksonville in 1997, my representative in Congress was Tillie Fowler, a Republican elected five years earlier during the term-limits craze, when numerous candidates pledged to serve a finite number of years.

These pledges, part of the GOP's Contract with America, were a terrific hammer to drop on incumbents, making them look like entrenched career politicians out of touch with the concerns of real Americans.

Fowler campaigned on an "eight is enough" pledge, vowing to leave the House after four terms.

Funny thing happened in those eight years. The Republicans won control of the House from Democrats in 1994 and Fowler rose to prominence. By the time the 2000 election came around, she was fifth in the GOP hierarchy and widely regarded as the most powerful woman in Congress. Several politicians broke their pledges, losing their enthusiasm for the concept when it meant their own ouster.

Though Fowler toyed with the idea of breaking her pledge and was derided as "Slick Tillie," she ultimately declined to run for re-election and left Washington with six other pledgers.

Fowler died today at age 62, two days after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

Though I voted against her every time I could, I became a big fan of Fowler the day she announced her departure from Congress. Regardless of how much pressure she was under from a term-limits group and other critics, Fowler would have sailed to re-election. Democrats didn't even field a candidate last year against Ander Crenshaw, who holds the district today. He won with 99 percent of the vote!

You don't see many examples of politicians who value their word more than a safe seat.


I wondered what had happened to her.

I mostly remember her during the Clinton impeachment hearings. But I must add, she left a lasting impression that was not altogether bad.

Like you, I didn't agree with her but I sensed a true spirit that probably felt she was right to impeach the president.

In hindsight, it all seems so naive. Especially when compared with this Administration's high-jinks. ''

With Democrats in power, no telling what we would learn in Senate and House hearings.

Going back to Cheney's secret energy meetings where I think the neocons cooked up the plot to invade Iraq and that's the reason Cheney fought tooth and nail to not have to disclose who I attended or notes from the meeting to the recent payola scandals and Gannon-gate.

I always figured that those energy meetings were hidden for two reasons: The Bush administration didn't want the public to recognize how deeply it was in corporate pockets, and they have a deep, Nixonian love of secrecy for its own sake.

I didn't like Fowler's voting record, and if she was one of the impeachment scolds that would've been a stain on her career. But I like how she's being described in memoriam as a diminutive woman whose size hid the fact she was "tough as a Marine."

In my limited interaction with Fowler I found her to be a very respectable woman. I didn't always agree with her ideals, but I respected her commitment to them because it came from a genuine place.

I recall when she visited the Fusion Cafe in 5 Points when it opened. The place was full of punks, gay kids, drag queens, goths, you name it - and she was completely kind and open to everyone she met - even people who openly disagreed with her views. I was impressed that she took the time to mingle with people that were so clearly not a part of her element.

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