New York native Elise Stefanik is a 30-year-old truck-driving, Instagram-loving D.C. badass. She's also the youngest women ever elected to congress. We asked for her top tips for slaying the naysayers and becoming a political supernova.
1. Your age is a commodity—so own it.
"I was a young candidate who does not look like a typical candidate. I realized that people would talk about that early on, so I really wrapped my arms around the youthful aspect of my candidacy. My slogan wasn't Stefanik for Congress; it was Elise for Congress. I wanted it to be accessible, young, and energetic. Some voters didn't even know my last name."
2. Forget your critics (there will be so many).
"You have to have thick skin. Some of the comments [people make] are harmful, in terms of what you're wearing and how you look, but it's part of the job...I was criticized for wearing patterned tights by some of the older men in my district, though it's pretty typical for a woman in her late 20s, 30s, or any age to wear tights like that. Now some of the older women in Congress are saying they're going to look for patterned tights, too!"
3. Shut up and listen.
"Too often candidates and elected officials spend so much time talking and sharing their views and not enough time listening. This is the strength of our campaign, and I think it's something women are really good at. When I told Congressman Paul Ryan I was thinking of running, he gave me great advice: 'You have one mouth and two ears, so use them in that ratio.'"
This article appears in the May 2015 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.
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