Vivian Davis Figures to seek ‘common ground’ as Senate Minority Leader

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Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, at a school safety hearing on Jan. 9, 2013. (Montgomery Advertiser, Amanda Sowards)

Newly-elected Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures said at a press conference Thursday morning she would try to lead her caucus to work with majority Republicans.

“We do have many, many challenges, but I feel you can find common ground anywhere,” said Figures, as Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, also a Republican, looking on. “I’m a believer in treating people the way you want to be treated. My parents drilled that in us, and it has never failed me.”

Figures, a Democrat from Mobile, was elected in 1997 to finish the term of her late husband Michael Figures, the first black lawmaker to hold the title of Senate President Pro Tem.

She was elected to a term in her own right the following year and has served continually in the state Senate since, and has been an outspoken champion of anti-smoking legislation.

Figures, who is black, will be the first minority and the first woman to hold the title of Senate Minority Leader.

“I’m not Sen. Michael Figures,” she said. “I have to bring Vivian Figures to whatever position I’m holding.”

The Senate consists of 22 Republicans, 11 Democrats and 1 independent. A vacant seat in Mobile will go to a Republican following a special election this spring; Democrats are not contesting the race.

Prior to Figures’ remarks, Ivey and Marsh both paid tribute to her.

“Sen. Figures has always been a worker,” Marsh said. “She puts, as the governor puts, the people of Alabama ahead of partisan politics. She will continue to do so.”

Figures said Senate Democrats planned to meet next week to discuss their legislative agenda. She said it would be unveiled on Feb. 12.

Marsh and Figures had a heated discussion words at the end of a special legislative session last spring, after Republicans used a parlimentary procedure to move a redistricting map that Democrats opposed to a vote. Both said Thursday they had moved beyond that.

“Sen. Marsh and I had harsh words, but neither he nor I hold grudges,” Figures said.

– posted by Brian Lyman

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