United States Senator Paula Hawkins, 1980

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United States Senator Paula Hawkins, 1980

United States Senator Paula Hawkins, 1980

by:
jtracy
January 16, 2018

 United States Senator Paula Hawkins became the first woman elected to the United States Senate based on her own attributes and the first woman to be a senator from Florida.

Listen as her husband, Gene Hawkins, describes  her  election debate at Rollins College in this excerpt from an oral history interview with WWII veteran Gene Hawkins at Villa Serena May 15, 2017. 

LISTEN Part V (19:02) 

I'm just going to tell you, these other fellas, including Lou Frey, have been running for, I'd say like three months. And so Paula would be coming in three months late and so forth. Dick Morris kept saying, "Don't worry, I know what the polls are." And so, the way the Florida law was, you had to win if there were several people in that primary. You had to win 51% of the vote to say I'm in. Well, the election, out of four or five people, she carried I want to say like 48 % and then Lou Frey was next. Let's say that he carried 31%. So the party thought, now I hate to say this because we like Lou Fry, but if you carry 48% you're inevitably going to win in the runoff. But he felt he could beat them even in the runoff. But she won clearly by a wide margin.

Political Debate at Rollins College

So now she's got to run in the general election against the Democrat... But anyway, Dick Morris says, "You know we'll win." But it was a tight race, very tight.... And there was a debate, a Public Service Debate, meaning she didn't have to pay for it. That gave her exposure. The debate was held at Rollins. And Dick Morris kind of gave her some tips about how to handle yourself in a debate and it was a tough debate. And Paula won the debate and was elected to the U.S.. Senate in 1980. It was the same year Ronald Reagan was elected....

Paula Hawkins Wins the U.S.. Senate

And now, now the nation, "The Washington Post" ran an article - she really broke the ceiling. Because honestly, here's a woman elected to the U.S... Senate and "The Washington Post" had a two to three page article even though they're Democrat... There was one woman senator, Nancy Kassenbaum, and she had won. But her father was governor and very, you talk about coattails, from Kansas... and Kansas is a Republican state.... But the line written was that Paula Hawkins won the U.S. Senate without having the benefit of any famous person, if you will. That's kind of how I came in because her husband was, had never been anything politically and so forth. So I became now a little bit of an enigma. I began to get a little space. But anyway, the word that went around, the first senator elected to the U.S. Senate, female senator, on her own....

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