Stories of the dimunitiuve, irrepressible former Senator Mae Yih abound with any long-of-tooth Oregon lobbyist.
Mae YihThe most oft-told story involves a Ways and Means hearing at which Yih was listening intently to a state bureaucrat defend a spending request. In his opening comments, the bureaucrat said the amount requested was $500,000, but later he referred to the amount as a half million dollars, prompting Yih to interrupt and demand to know, “Which is it, $500,000 or half a million?”
Maybe the funniest and most telling Mae Yih story dealt with her first attempt in 1977 at stumping for office in her semi-rural Mid-Willamette Valley district. Yih, wife of the CEO of Wah Chang, then a major employer in the area, reportedly went “door-to-door” with a driver in her Rolls Royce.
Friendly supporters tipped off Democratic campaign officials who faced the delicate task of explaining to Yih that it might raise voter eyebrows to see her driving around in a car fit for nobility. Yih, after all, was running as a Democrat.
Yih said she was embarrassed by such a beginner’s mistake. From then on, she drove around the district on her own in a sleek Mercedes sports car. Nobody seemed to care.