Democrat Harold Cogdell seized the commissioners’ chairmanship from Roberts with the backing of the board’s four Republicans.
In a draft of her remarks, Roberts said: “I am not the first woman who has been shoved aside by a man, and I won’t be the last.” But she did not say that at the meeting.
“I struck it because I realized it was not what I wanted to say. It is what women have said to me and it’s not what I wanted to say,” Roberts told me. “It’s not really about that at all. These things happen in politics regardless of race or gender. It’s politics. It’s not one particular gender or category.
“A lot of women have expressed their anger to me because they do feel like it might have been different had I been Parks Helms or someone else. I don’t have any reason to believe that’s true. If people can make a deal to get something they want, then they do it.
“You want to appreciate your constituents and understand their perspective but sometimes you get carried away and realize it’s more their perspective than yours and you realize, ‘I don’t feel that way.’ Being overly empathetic, I don’t know. That’s why you have several drafts of something, to convey what you really mean.”
Roberts was smart to strike the line. It would have been unnecessarily divisive – and wrong. Roberts wasn’t shoved aside because Cogdell’s a man and she’s a woman. She was shoved aside by an overly ambitious politician who saw an opportunity and took it.
On related fronts:
-- Roberts said it’s “a misinterpretation” to say that she has suggested that women are discriminated against in politics. “What I have said is we govern ourselves better when we have the voice of women as well as the voice of men. Certain issues get more attention when women’s voices are stronger. … Where we can increase (the number of elected women) we usually have better outcomes because there are more diverse voices at the table.” She cited issues around child care and preschool education as one example of something that is harmed when women aren’t at the political table.
-- Women are underrepresented in public office in part, she said, because they sometimes have a harder time raising money than men. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re the newcomer, you don’t have that old guys network of people who are all in your law firm and they all give a thousand bucks.”
-- I told her it was notable that she said in her concession speech “I have kept my promises to the Democratic Party.” She said: “I do believe in being fair. I do believe in inclusion, not just racial, ethnic, religious, etc., but also sexual orientation. We need all those different voices and I don’t believe the Republican Party has that same sense that they celebrate diverse voices because diverse voices learn from each other. I don’t get that feeling from the Republican Party at all.”
She may have kept her promises to the Democratic Party, but emphasizing that party loyalty could make it harder for her to appeal to a broader base of voters in her next run for higher office.
-- Speaking of her next run, there might not be one in 2012. Roberts suggested she was eyeing higher office when she announced last month that she wouldn’t run for county commissioner again. This morning, she said that might be on hold. “I’m pretty sure I’m not a candidate in 2012 but I can’t say that for sure. I’m pretty sure I want to take that step back and be more deliberative. … You really need to step out every so often and keep your ideas fresh.”
-- Taylor Batten