Former Florida Sen. Paula Hawkins died yesterday at the age of 82. A Republican, Hawkins was a trailblazer for female politicians in the state of Florida.
In 1972, Hawkins was the first woman elected to a statewide office when she took a seat on the Public Service Commission, then an elected body. She ran for Senate in 1974 and for lieutenant governor in 1978, losing both times. She was successfully elected senator in 1980, becoming Florida's first and, to date, only female senator. She was also the first woman in the history of the body to win election to a full term without the benefit of having political family connections. She also was the first senator to bring her husband to D.C. with her. As a result, the Senate Wives' Club became the Senate Spouses' Club. Husband Gene Hawkins preceded future male members including Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.
Hawkins was defeated in her re-election attempt in 1986 by outgoing governor Bob Graham.