Women for a Change: A Grassroots Guide to Activism and Politics

By Thalia Zepatos; Elizabeth Kaufman | Go to book overview

Then an opportunity opened up after redistricting -- I ended up in a district that tended to vote Democratic and I'm a Democrat, and it was an open seat. I knew that was the opportunity for me to run for the legislature, and I was approached again about running.

So I sat down one weekend and called about 100 people that I knew in Spokane, and said, "This is what's going on, what do you think I should do?" A lot of them thought it was a good idea and said they would be willing to work for me. In fact, several people said, "I've got my checkbook out, let's go!" That support was really important.

Also, as a single parent, the fact that I had a really close network of people helped. I'm part of a women's group that's been together for eight years. Knowing that I had their support, and that of very close friends, and members of my family...I wouldn't counsel anyone to be a candidate who isn't real secure about her own personal, support network. During the campaign, three families that lived near my house invited me to drop in with my son and eat and relax, and I didn't have to do the dishes. I just knew that I could always call on them, no matter what. For me, that was key.

There are times when you're really going to question yourself, like if you get negative press. For me, it's really hard to get criticism but you can't go into politics without facing it. So far I've only served one year, and I'm still really learning. I guess I rather naively expected I'd come in and we would just vote on things, but of course there are a lot of procedures and processes and the committee chairs and the leadership have a lot of power, and so I feel like I'm still learning the process.

I've tried to develop a focus on human service issues, particularly child care, housing, and revenue. Taxes are not a popular issue for any elected official, but I felt like I had something to contribute there because of my economics background. So I've gotten on committees that reflect those interests.

Socially and economically, women have been in different places than men. Women have done more child-raising, more foster-parenting. The more diversity we have in the legislature, the more occupations, the better. In the health care reform debate, we need not just doctors, but nurses too!

In terms of process, women are more open. Generally, my experience is that women are more eager to share the power and are more interested in the outcome than in their own personal power. Maybe they weren't expecting to go into politics, and so they don't stake their entire image on this.

I've always had a sense that some people before me have made certain things possible, have opened up avenues that weren't there before. And so I draw inspiration from them and then try to pass some of that on. There's a historical highway out there, and I really encourage people to figure out how they can feel a part of that.

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