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December 9, 2007

Why I Ran for Office

We asked female political leaders around the country what inspired them to run.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
“When the opportunity presented itself to run for Congress in 1987, I thought I should ask my children. My youngest was entering her senior year in high school, and when I asked her whether she would mind my leaving home and going to Congress, she responded, ‘Mom, get a life.’ What she meant was, ‘Get your own life.’ And so I did.”

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
“When I was growing up, there were many barriers and very few role models for a young woman hoping for a career in politics — especially one who was a lesbian! Given the obstacles, even well-meaning friends were often less than encouraging. I graduated from college in 1984, and that summer, I watched on my tiny TV as Geraldine Ferraro crossed the stage at the Democratic National Convention to accept the nomination for vice president. I thought to myself, I can be anything I want.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
“I got my start working with campaigns when I was a little girl. My parents taught me to say ‘Trick or Treat and vote for JFK’ when I was 7. But the real lesson I learned was in high school. I was defeated for elective office in student council by a guy who gave a really funny speech about chili peppers. I’ve realized that you’ve got to give people a sense of who you are as a person. Your humanity and sense of humor is a very important weapon.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
“When I graduated in ’72, I got involved with a group, Young Democratic Women, in Ingham County. The county board of commissioners at the time was trying to close the local nursing home, and I ended up leading the effort to keep it open. I remember one county meeting where the county commissioner was ridiculing those of us who were concerned with low-income senior citizens, and it just made me mad. Everyone came up to me and asked me why I didn’t run against him. I was 24. He was a very entrenched incumbent who referred to me as ‘that young broad.’ This made me have even more resolve. My tenacity kicked in.”

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