Rep. Martha Roby: Her star is on the rise. Will it allow her to break more glass ceilings?
Congresswomen Martha Roby, R-Montgomery and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, both shattered a glass ceiling in Alabama when they were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.
In winning, Roby and Sewell became the first women from Alabama to be elected to Congress in regular elections and essentially in their own name.
Three Alabama women served in the Congress – one in the House and two in the Senate – in the last century. All three served about a year and two succeed their husbands who had died in office and one was appointed by her husband who was governor to serve out the term of then Sen. Hugo Black after he was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the best known woman to serve in high elected state office was Gov. Lurleen Wallace who was elected in 1966 but only because her husband, Gov. George Wallace, could not succeed himself and ran his wife in his place.
The most successful female Alabama politician to date has been former Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley who came to the public's attention as the wife of Bill Baxley, a former attorney general and lieutenant governor. But Lucy Baxley built her own political career serving as state treasurer and lieutenant governor and winning the 2006 Democratic Party nomination for governor.
While there are several other women currently holding statewide office, it is Roby and Sewell who seem at the top of the list of women politicians in the state. But Roby may soon hold the spot all to herself as she finds herself positioned to raise her political profile in the Congress and just maybe across Alabama.
Last week Roby was picked for a plum political assignment when House Speaker John Boehner appointed Roby as one of seven Republicans to serve on a select House committee probing the events surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack resulted in the killings of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
For 20 months events surrounding the attack – who did it, how much warning did the Americans have, the response to it by U.S. security forces and most especially the Obama administration accounts of events – has dominated the news.
Lobbying for appointment to the select committee was intense, according to an account in The Washington Post. With much of the committee's work sure to make headline news nationally and with what is also sure to be at times live television coverage, Roby's seat on the committee may well serve to elevate her status, especially among Republicans across the country and across Alabama, where President Obama is deeply unpopular and polls have shown a majority of Alabamians remain unconvinced by White House accounts of events surrounding the attack.
Another key factor that is playing a role in Roby's ascendancy up the GOP ladder is her age. At only 37, Roby is by far the youngest member of the Alabama congressional delegation and one of the youngest Republicans serving in office in Alabama in a prominent position.
At such a young age, and with her political star on the rise, her name increasingly comes up as a potential successor to Sen. Richard Shelby, who just turned 80 last week and will soon have to decide if he will seek a sixth term in 2016.
Other potential political targets could include an open seat for governor in 2018 if 71-year-old Gov. Robert Bentley wins re-election this year or a race for attorney general in 2018.
As for Sewell, she is the second youngest member of the Alabama congressional delegation at age 49 but her prospects for higher statewide office as a Democrat in a deep red state are likely limited at this point.
It's always hard to predict the future in politics. But as of right now Martha Roby's star is on the rise in a way that not many, if any, Alabama female politicians have been.