Eva Scott was always the first to sound an alarm against creeping socialsim, Godless communism and the dangers in the Equal Rights Amendment during her eight years in Virginia's House of Delegates.
Any bill that seemed a breeding ground for more bureaucracy, she did her best to kill. And when the subject was crime and capital punishment, Scott never bought the argument that innocents might mistakenly be executed with the guilty.
"I don't believe it's going to happen very often." Scott reassured the critics.
She still considers herself a resolute warror for the conservatism. But friends and foes alike note that since last year, when she became the first woman elected to Virginia's state Senate, Scott seems to have lost some of her sound and fury.
"I hope I have blended in and not caused any special problems for anybody," says the 54-year-old Republican senator from Amelia County, southwest of Richmond.
She still votes against more bills, amendments and resolutions than any other member of the General Assembly. But Scott, whose House speeches are legend, not rarely rises on the floor of the Senate to speak her mind.
"She no longer subjects us to the cruel and unusual punishment of her prepared remarks," says one Republican senator who served with Scott in the House.
Scott is accustomed to snide comments and unkind jokes from General Assembly colleagues about her politics, her intelligence and her brown, bouffant wig. She is a target in part because of her small-town style, which is remarkable because it seems to be authentic, unlike some legislators who purposely project a down-home image. But mostly she is subject to off-the-record gibes because of the role she has chosen for herself in Richmond.
Scott has built a successful political career by criticizing the very law making business she is in. There are already too many laws, she complains, and too much government regulation. The citizenry of the commonwealth would be better served, in her view, if Richmond's annual legislative express was occasionally derailed. Scott's role -- the shunk at the legislative garden party -- has not exactly endeared her to colleagues.
"I just have to put principles before politics," says Scott, a diminutive woman with oversized eyeglasses and a face that would look comfortable on the wife of a preacher. "I realize that's not always the popular thing to do."
There is no political heresy in Scott's conservative gospel Cutting back the tentacles of big government is a standard campaign promise. But many politicians check those burden some principles at the door to their elective offices. Scott conscientiously carries them into every committee meeting, and many of her colleagues consider it rude.
"She's worse than an empty seat," says one senator, who privately calls. Scott "Dr. No." "She doesn't introduce legislation of her own and she doesn't support bills that other people introduce."
"There's no compromise in her," grouses another Senate member who was a delegate with Scott two years ago during what may have been her most embarrassing moment in the General Assembly. After seven years as an independent, Scott announced on the floor of the House that she was joining the Republican ranks. While Republican in the House welcomed her with appropriate applause, they were drowned out by Democrats who stood to cheer her move.
Scott introduced just three bills this session, along with one resolution commending a local high school football team. Because she seeks so little, she does not have to swap votes, slap backs or toe a rigid party line. Earlier this session, Scott was the only Republican senator who refused to endorse the party's likely candidate for governor, Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman. Not surprisingly, in a poll this year of senators government officials and newspaper reporters who write about them, Scott was voted the Senate's least effective legislator.
But if Scott is not the belle of Richmond, she is popular enough with her voters back home to have been elected five times, twice against heavily favored incumbents.
"Sen. Scott is not speaking to a vacuum," says June Nofsinger, an editor of the Amelia Bulletin Monitor, which serves the county of 8,000 people. "She has a lot of support among conservative voters who approve of what she is doing."
Scott is a former pharmacist and mother of five who got into politics 10 years ago because, she says, "I got tired of just fussing in my house about what was going on." In her first campaign for the House of Delegates she upset a 16-year veteran of the legislature. The campaign was made possible by the financial support of her husband, a wealthy lumber company owner, but Scott gives more credit for the upset to her own apolitical appeal. o
"A lot of people don't trust politicians in general, but they want to trust me," said Scott recently during a lunch at her favorite Richmond eatery, a plain cafeteria two blocks from the Capitol.
"She is a hell of an effective campaigner, I'll tell you that," says James Edmunds, the two-term incumbent she defeated two years ago for her Senate seat. edmunds admits that at the start of the campaign, he regarded her challenge as "ridiculous." He blames his defeat on Scott's money (she spent twice as much as Edmunds), the support she received from Republican Gov. John N. Dalton and her tactic of painting Edmunds as a left-wing liberal.
Scott won that election by a mere 600 votes. Her margin of victory in the district, which covers an area equal in size to the state of Delaware and includes tobacco farmers and Richmond commuters, came from a solid Republican vote in western Chesterfield County.
It is Edmunds' hope, and the hallway gossip in Richmond's capitol building, that Chesterfield County will be cut out of the 17th District when all state districts are redrawn in April.
"Without Chesterfield she'll not only be vulnerable, she'll be a sitting duck," says Edmunds, a lawyer from Kenbridge who sports "Sen. 84" auto tags to advertise his political plans.
Scott concedes that Chesterfield is likely to be taken from her by the Democratic pie-cutters who will dominate reapportionment. But her job, she insists, is to do little and not worry. She likes to ride her Senate seat like the tractor on her daddy's farm -- slow and with one foot near the brake.
"Changes should not come too fast because you can't recognize the pit-falls," says Scott, who sees her colleagues rushing headlong into a thicket of socialism and binding regulation.