Four local politicians spoke about the obstacles of running for and serving in office as women on Friday. Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards, Waltham City Councilor Kristine Mackin PhD ’14, State Representative Tram Nguyen and State Senator Becca Rausch ’01 answered questions in a panel organized by the Brandeis Democrats club.
Edwards said that women need to help other women whenever possible. “You will see me. If you say no, then you’re going to say no to all of me, but you will know who that is,” said Edwards. “At some point, all of me is going to cross over some of you. You’re going to see some of you in me. That’s what I firmly believe in politics. I believe in connection.”
Nguyen said that Edwards endorsed her and helped her campaign. Edwards said that helping Nguyen was not only a positive action, but it helped both of their public appearances.
“I interrupted the line of Italian prince, Italian prince, Italian prince. So you must remember to always build a pipeline. I am going to find that person, whatever color they are, wherever they come from, and say you’re next in line, and my job is to prepare her to be the next city councilor,” said Edwards.
Edwards said that she has also made an effort to give kids who feel voiceless the opportunity to share their experiences and opinions. “When they say I want a voice, I say here’s a megaphone,” said Edwards.
Nguyen spoke about encouraging more women to consider running for office. “I do know that women many times need to be asked on average seven times to run before they would even consider it, and for women of color, most of us are not even asked, so consider this, everyone, your first ask,” said Nguyen.
She said that since there are so few women of color, they have to seek each other out to help each other find an augmented voice.
“One of the hardest things…campaigning as a woman of color is that I need to prove myself first for people to actually listen to me. Being a woman of color means you have to work so much harder to get your voice out there and actually run a campaign in a way that’s authentic to you,” said Nguyen.
Edwards said that when campaigning becomes difficult, she often thinks about how she would react if someone slammed the door in a client’s face. “What would I have done if this was my client and she had the door slammed in her face? I would’ve gotten my elbow in the door before it could shut and I would’ve given the argument of my life for her,” said Edwards. “That’s what I had to do [for myself].”
Rausch said that she hates the term “pink wave” because she doesn’t think that any woman has won an election simply because she is a woman. She said that women win in spite of the fact that they are women and are often told that they cannot run.
“I was told I can’t win, so I will never say that to someone. I will never tell them that you can’t win, therefore you can’t run. If your goal is to actually implement real change and to push an agenda that you feel is not being met, run. But run with dignity and run with a positive campaign,” said Edwards. “Allies support, allies are honest, allies listen and allies are okay if they’re not leading.”
Mackin said that she is not looking forward to running for reelection and that the work that goes into campaigning is like having another job. She said that she is going to pull out the list of every registered voter this year and try to reach people who haven’t been engaged in local politics. “I think that people want to feel like politicians care, and that’s the most basic qualification for elected office, legitimately caring about the community and other people,” said Mackin.
Mackin said that when she studied biochemistry at Brandeis, there were only two women teaching in the department. “I said that I can’t fight as hard as they do for the basic respect and recognition as experts in their field. If I have to fight that hard for that type of respect and recognition, I want to do it on a bigger stage, and politics is that bigger stage.”
Rausch said that Brandeis is the first place that she applied intelligent thinking and critical analysis together to her dedication to social justice and broad spectrum equality. It is important that young people vote and that Brandeis students consider changing their voter registration to indicate that they live in Waltham, noted Rausch.
“I cannot emphasize more that all politics are local. Please consider changing your voter registration to right here where you live… You spend the vast majority of your year here,” said Rausch. “The policies that the Waltham city council works on, that your mayor works on, will directly impact your day to day life vastly more than the president of this country, than the state house of representatives, than the state senate, I guarantee you,” Rausch said.
Rausch also said that all four women would love to have Brandeis students help work on their campaign. More information about the politicians and their agendas can be found on their websites.