Ascent of a Woman

Meet Jane Hull. She's probably your next governor.

And from unlikely places. Former state representative Becky Jordan, a moderate Republican generally considered to be in favor of basic human rights, was working on the House staff at the time.

"She became my hero right then," Jordan says. "I think it's just because she was so outspoken about it, not because I particularly agree with the issue. So, I thought, 'Goddang, that is one tough little mama!'"

Hull now laughs at the memory--even brings it up herself--but the statement wasn't a laughing matter to everyone.

Paul Williams, a prisoner then serving an eight-year sentence for robbery, filed a lawsuit against Hull, referring to her as "Frau Jane D. Hull" and accusing her of advocating concentration-camp-style accommodations. Hull disturbed Williams' "emotional tranquillity," the prisoner claimed.

The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Neither Williams nor Hull could have predicted that her suggestion would all but come to fruition with Maricopa County's Tent City. But unlike Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a name for himself--and an 85 percent approval rating--out of such outrageous statements, Hull toned it down after that.

But by no means did she shut up. Rick Collins was hired as a House staff analyst at the same time Hull was first elected to office. Collins, who would eventually become Hull's chief of staff when she was elected speaker, chuckles, recalling Hull's first days in the Legislature.

She was a thorn in the side of leadership, always questioning authority, Collins says. Looking back, he's not surprised at Hull's success.

"The troublemakers of today," Collins says, "usually are the ones who float to the top in a few years."

Cindy Resnick says she credits Hull's hard-as-nails veneer to the difficulty of serving in a leadership role as a woman. Resnick sat on Hull's Governmental Operations Committee.

At the time they served together, Hull and Resnick were adversaries on many issues. But today, Resnick won't say a thing against Hull.

"It was a tough time to be a woman and be in that position," Resnick recalls, "so in hindsight, I give her a lot of credit for what she was trying to do. The problem, at the time, was I think that she was perceived as too heavy-handed. It wasn't expected of a woman that they would be both intelligent and dynamic at the same time, or that they were even capable of running these committees."

Over the years, Hull cemented her reputation as the "Iron Lady"--with regard to large matters of policy and politics, and even down to the picayune.

A lobbyist who worked as a legislative page in the early Nineties recalls, "I had to deliver these papers to the legislators in the morning, and her newspaper had to be placed on her chair in exactly the right spot, or she'd come down and yell at us."

But Rick Collins insists "Iron Lady" doesn't do Hull justice.
"It's going to sound corny," Collins says, "but I think it's more that she always tried to act with the best interest of the institution in mind."

And in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the institution--and the state--was undergoing tough times.

First, Mecham was impeached.
Tony West--now state treasurer, but at the time a state senator--takes half the credit for Mecham's demise, and gives the other half to Hull, who seems to have had no gubernatorial aspirations at that time.

In October 1987, Hull and West, also of District 18, attended a legislative district meeting to announce their belief that Mecham should resign. They were the first Republicans to do so.

West recalls an "unruly mob" of more than 250 people, "people we have never seen before or since."

Hull and West gave their talk, then faced the barrage of angry Mechamites.
"That was the beginning of the end for Governor Mecham," West says. "In that crowd, it was so nasty I can remember one guy in the middle of the aisle stuck out a big, burly arm that had a hangman's noose in it. He looked us both right in the eye, and said, 'Hang the bastards. They have crucified our Christ child.' And then it went downhill from there."

West was impressed with the way Hull handled herself in an awkward--possibly even dangerous--situation.

"She never flinched. Never wavered."
The Mecham impeachment was difficult, but Hull recalls AzScam as the toughest time in her political career. She allowed her friend, Representative Jim Hartdegan, to give a floor speech announcing his resignation, after it was alleged he accepted bribes in the 1991 sting operation.

Politics aside, the state's economy was a shambles during the years Hull served as speaker. More than once, Hull had to push budget cuts and tax hikes.

Observers say leadership moderated Hull, with regard to both her presentation and her politics. She earned a reputation during her time as speaker of the House for her ability to build consensus, showing that whatever her views on issues are, there's likely to be some room for movement.

Carol Kamin, executive director of the Children's Action Alliance, says, "I saw tremendous growth in those years in her ability to bring people together."

When she left the Legislature in 1993, Hull told reporters she was tired of the "meanness."

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