Barbara Alby, a self-described welfare mom and domestic violence victim who became a state assemblywoman and longtime force in Republican politics, died Sunday. She was 66.
Her death was confirmed in a statement released Sunday by Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly. The cause of death was not released.
Alby often said that her rise in California political circles was prompted by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, who she said cut her welfare benefits while she was a single mother living in poverty.
In a guest opinion piece published in The Sacramento Bee in May 2010, Alby wrote: "Forty years ago I was a welfare mom, living that quality of life. My defining moment was when Ronald Reagan became governor. Within a few months he cut my benefits. I didn't like him much back then, but he made me look at my little girl and say to myself, 'Mommy has to make some new choices.' "
From that point in her youth, Alby rallied, eventually marrying Dennis Alby, building a new family, running a business and supporting various conservative causes. She also became involved in numerous efforts to protect the safety of women and children.
Alby twice ran for public office against B.T. Collins, losing both times. However, following Collins' death, she won a special election in July 1993, representing Carmichael and other areas in the 5th Assembly District.
Over nearly six years in the state Legislature, the mother of five was the author of legislation that established the Child Molester Hotline as well as Megan's Law, which makes information on registered sex offenders public. She also championed legislation giving police power to arrest for "probable cause" in domestic violence cases.
She also held the line on causes dear to the hearts of Republicans. She never voted for a tax measure. Multiple times she was named "Tax Fighter of the Year" by the National Tax Limitation Committee.
Her time in the state Legislature included involvement in some of the most high-profile stories in the Sacramento area, including her long fight to keep McClellan Air Force Base operating amid the base cutbacks of the 1990s.
California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro issued a statement Sunday saying, "The California Republican Party has lost a dear friend with the passing of Barbara Alby. Barbara served our party in many roles including assemblywoman, acting member of the (state) Board of Equalization, and as our longtime national committeewoman to the Republican National Committee.
"Barbara's life reminds us that it's not only important to have strong beliefs but to act upon those beliefs."
Alby, while an acting BOE member, fell short in her bid for the 1st Senate District seat in November 2010. She was sharply critical of fellow Republican and opponent Roger Niello, who had voted along with Democrats for some tax measures.
Funeral arrangements are pending.