Thursday, March 8, 2012

Martha Layne Collins

Martha Layne Collins (née Hall, born December 7, 1936) is an American former businesswoman and politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky who was the state's 56th governor from 1983 to 1987. Prior to her election as governor, she was the 48th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, under John Y. Brown, Jr. As of 2012, she is the only woman to have been a governor of Kentucky. Her election made her the highest-ranking Democratic woman in the U.S. She was considered as a possible running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, but Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro instead.

After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Collins worked as a school teacher while her husband finished a degree in dentistry. She became interested in politics, and worked on both Wendell Ford's gubernatorial campaign in 1971 and Walter "Dee" Huddleston's U.S. Senate campaign in 1972. In 1975, she was chosen secretary of the state's Democratic Party and was elected clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. During her tenure as clerk, a constitutional amendment restructured the state's judicial system, and the Court of Appeals became the Kentucky Supreme Court; Collins continued as clerk of the renamed court and worked to educate citizens about the new role of the court.

Collins was elected lieutenant governor in 1979, under Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. Brown was frequently out of the state, leaving Collins as acting governor for more than 500 days of her four-year term. In 1983, she defeated Republican Jim Bunning to become Kentucky's first woman governor. Her administration had two primary focuses: education and economic development. After failing to secure increased funding for education in the 1984 legislative session, she conducted a statewide public awareness campaign in advance of a special legislative session the following year; the modified program was passed in that session. She successfully used economic incentives to bring a Toyota manufacturing plant to Georgetown, Kentucky in 1986. Legal challenges to the incentives – which would have cost the state the plant and its related economic benefits – were eventually dismissed by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The state experienced record economic growth under Collins' leadership.

At the time, Kentucky governors were not eligible for reelection. Collins taught at several universities after her four-year term as governor. From 1990 to 1996, she was the president of Saint Catharine College near Springfield, Kentucky. The 1993 conviction of Collins' husband, Dr. Bill Collins, in an influence-peddling scandal damaged her hopes for a return to political life. Prior to her husband's conviction it had been rumored that she would be a candidate for the U.S. Senate, or would take a position in the administration of President Bill Clinton. As of 2012 Collins is an executive scholar in residence at Georgetown College.

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