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Nemesis to two Bushes to speak

While it's doubtful she'll ride into town aboard a motorcycle, former Texas Gov. Ann Richards is expected to rouse Democrats and stir up a sleepy populace when she comes to Citrus County on Wednesday in the fuming, folksy, mufflerless way that Democrats know and expect.

Wish No. 1 is that she "use her wicked, wicked sense of humor and to keep us entertained," said Janna DeMarta, acting chairwoman of the Citrus County Democratic Executive Committee.

"Second of all, for her to draw some clear defined distinctions" between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

Richards plans to do just that as she stumps for the Kerry-John Edwards campaign during a political pep rally that local Democrats are hosting.

Richards is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the event, tentatively set to begin at 3 p.m. at the Beverly Hills Civic Center.

Richards, 71, is a Harley-Davidson enthusiast best known for her sly twists of tongue. She rose to national prominence in 1988 when, as Texas treasurer, she was a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention and memorably told the nation that the first President Bush was "born with a silver foot in his mouth."

She was Texas governor in 1994 when George W. Bush challenged her. Although Richards attended Baylor University on a debating scholarship, Bush stood unbowed from her verbal attacks during a debate and defeated the incumbent.

Since then, Richards has been an advocate for prevention of the bone-weakening disease osteoporosis, which she was diagnosed with, and has been making the rounds as a national political speaker.

Local Democrats secured her appearance after the Democratic statewide speakers bureau found Richards available.

Already busy this summer on the presidential campaign, Richards recently told a crowd in Bristol Township, Pa., on Sept. 14 that Bush and the American public are "like a bad marriage," according to the Bucks County Courier Times.

"Like we say in Texas, it's time to split the sheets and sign the legal papers," the paper quoted her as saying.

On Thursday, Richards was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at Saint Mary's College in Indiana at a seminar related to intergenerational and long-term health care issues.

Richards, the daughter of a truck driver, was born in Waco, Texas, and taught junior high social studies and history.

She entered politics in 1976, becoming the first woman to win a seat on the Travis County Commission. Six years later, she became the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas in 50 years as treasurer.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Justin George can be reached at (352) 860-7309 or jgeorgesptimes.com.

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