Mary Sue Terry broke the mold (in both senses of the word) of Virginia politics when she was elected attorney general in 1985. The first female to hold that post in Virginia, Mary Sue was an important force in Virginia and Democratic politics during the 1980s and early 1990s. In politics timing can be everything - in 1993 she lost the Governor's Mansion to George Allen during a time when Republicans and conservatives were surging in Virginia. After that loss (for her, for Democrats, and as it turned out, for the commonwealth), Mary Sue returned to her roots in rural Patrick County. She continued to make public appearances and spoke to many groups including a high school graduation here in the central Shenandoah Valley. But, her political involvement was very low key. The Roanoke Times has an interesting article on the political career and life of Mary Sue Terry.
Today, many Virginians would probably say "Mary Sue Who?" It has been 15 years since she left the bright lights of electoral politics. Virginia's population has dramatically changed, too. I don't have the numbers, but a significant portion of the voting age population is too young to remember her or they moved to Virginia in the years since Mary Sue was front page news.
Yes, timing is everything and lots has changed since 1993. Mary Sue Terry is today reemerging as a political force in Virginia. Many political observers thought her election in '85 signaled a new era of women in politics. Yes, some progress has been made as there are more women in local and state offices (see prior post). But, there have been limits - this year, for example, Virginia Democrats made gains in the House of Representatives and bumped off the one woman, Republican Thelma Drake, who had served there.
Mary Sue and a group of influential women have joined together to encourage and help aspiring Democratic women fulfill their political dreams. The Farm Team has a simple mission:
The goal of The Farm team is a simple one: recruit, develop and elect women to office. We hope this website will be a resource for women who aspire to hold elective office and for those who wish to support them.
Visit The Farm Team to learn about its origins, other women (and men) who are involved, upcoming regional meetings, and the resources they are bringing to the table. They are not just talk - as Mary Sue says:
This group is not in the business of tilting at windmills.
The Farm Team has picked one statewide candidate, Jody Wagner, as their first and most visible project. Wagner, a former Treasurer of Virginia and Secretary of Finance, is a candidate for Lt. Governor. Mary Sue might have cracked the glass ceiling in 1985, but Wagner would be just the second woman to hold statewide office. The Farm Team is also recruiting and nurturing candidates for school boards, boards of supervisors, and city councils. They are indeed serious about building a strong farm team that will change Virginia politics forever.