I had an interesting morning today — a late breakfast at the Texas Tavern with Toni Atkins.
She’s 50, grew up in Roanoke, in Old Southwest, graduated in 1980 from Patrick Henry High School, then in 1984 earned a political science degree from Emory & Henry College.
She wanted a job in social services, but she couldn’t find one in Roanoke. So she worked at a dry cleaners and a couple of convenience stores. She left town in the fall of 1985, as the floodwaters were rising. She remembers Victory Stadium was underwater that day.
She moved to San Diego, and now she’s one of the most powerful women in all of California politics.
Atkins, a former member of San Diego City Council (she also served as acting mayor) was elected to the California Assembly, the equivalent of Virginia’s House of Delegates, in 2010. And now she’s majority leader of it.
She’s one of eight openly gay California state lawmakers, and she’s one of two who’s married. She and her spouse, Jennifer LeSar, were married four years ago, before Proposition 8 outlawed gay marriage in California. That law remains under legal challenge.
So how did it come to pass that we met? That falls under the category of “Gee, it’s a small world.”
My brother John Casey is her chief of staff. She hired him two weeks ago, after John decided not to follow his mentor, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, to Washington D.C. Lowenthal was recently elected to Congress.
John and Toni were on the phone Wednesday, and she told him she was in Roanoke visiting her sister, Tina Phillips, who still lives here.
“Holy cow, my brother’s a columnist there!” John said. So the called me, and I called Toni and we plotted a meeting place today.
“Where should we meet?” she said.
“How about the Texas Tavern?” I asked.
“Oh my God I love that place!” she said.