Election 2014: Real Girls Run

Looking to make a bold career move? Find inspiration in these campaign trailblazers running for U.S. Senate and House seats around the country in November.
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Looking to make a bold career move? Find inspiration in these campaign trailblazers running for U.S. Senate and House seats around the country in November.
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MARILINDA GARCIA, 31 (Republican)

Running in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District, she's held state office since she was 24.

MARIE CLAIRE: What do you understand that candidates twice your age don't?

MARILINDA GARCIA: Millennials now represent over a quarter of the population, but sadly, we don't represent ourselves by taking an active role in government. Our democracy works best when every group and generation has input. It's time for us to start bringing fresh and innovative ideas and solutions into the political process.

MC: Other than briefing books, what are you reading right now?

MG: Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time for pleasure reading. But when I do, I keep up with what's trending on social media. Sometimes, I skim through Pinterest for ideas on my upcoming wedding!

Marilinda Garcia has degrees from Tufts, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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EMILY CAIN, 34 (Democrat)

This candidate in Maine's 2nd District was elected to her state's house of representatives at age 24.

MC: How do you unwind at the end of a long day on the trail?

EMILY CAIN: I love to go home, cook something delicious, and spend time with my husband, Danny, and dog, Bartlet the pug. On the campaign trail, we spend a lot of time driving across the district, so an upbeat playlist—Sara Bareilles, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé—is essential.

MC: What advice would you give other women considering running for office?

EC: GO FOR IT. So many women think of themselves as not qualified to run for office, and they are all wrong. The best elected officials are the ones who bring their own experiences to the table and can speak up effectively on issues that affect their communities.

Emily Cain is the youngest woman in Maine history to serve as the state's house minority leader.

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KELLY WESTLUND, 31 (Democrat)

This small-business owner is running for Congress in Wisconsin's 7th District.

MC: How do you unwind at the end of a long day on the trail?

KELLY WESTLUND: If I'm home, I'll walk my dogs or weed the garden. Otherwise, I try to read fiction or catch up on Game of Thrones.

MC: What's the biggest challenge facing female candidates right now?

KW: Studies show that most women need to be asked to run for office before they give it serious consideration. We tend to pursue more collaborative avenues for solving problems, and the negativity in politics sometimes makes elected office unattractive. But to any woman considering a run for office, I'd say do it. We need you.

Kelly Westlund has spent most of her career working for environmental nonprofits devoted to sustainability.

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ELISE STEFANIK, 30 (Republican)

A candidate in New York's 21st District, she once worked for her family's plywood business.

MC: What prompted the career change?

ELISE STEFANIK: I was 7 years old when my parents started the business, so I was instilled with a strong work ethic at a young age. I hope to bring a modern entrepreneurial spirit coupled with old-fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves grit to help solve problems in Washington.

MC: What's your favorite kind of campaign event?

ES: No day is typical on the trail. But in the past year, some of the fun highlights included being the first federal candidate to file my candidacy on Instagram (@EliseStefanik) and throwing the opening pitch—a strike!—at a local team's baseball game.

Elise Stefanik helped prep Paul Ryan for his vice presidential debate during the 2012 campaign.

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AMANDA RENTERIA, 39 (Democrat)

A candidate in California's 21st District, she was the first Latina chief of staff in Senate history, for Michigan's Debbie Stabenow.

MC: What advice would you give other women considering running for office?

AMANDA RENTERIA: Raise your hand! Over the course of my career, I've noticed that women are rarely first to raise their hand when someone asks, "Any questions?" It's time more women have their voices heard and step up!

MC: Other than briefing books, what are you reading right now?

AR: If I had more time, I would finally finish my piled-up copies of Scientific American Mind magazine. I am fascinated by the study of the brain and mind.

Amanda Renteria, a former Goldman Sachs analyst, was said to be one of President Obama's top picks to lead the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

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JONI ERNST, 44 (Republican)

This Iowa-based candidate for U.S. Senate is also a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard.

MC: When you're running out of steam, how do you recharge?

JONI ERNST: There's nothing like time with my family, but I also really look forward to time with my soldiers. As a lieutenant colonel and a battalion commander, I'm required to participate each month in active duty training. I just returned from two weeks at Fort McCoy and enjoyed every moment out in the field with my soldiers.

If elected, Joni Ernst, who served as a company commander in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003, would be the first female combat veteran in Senate history.

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NATALIE TENNANT, 46 (Democrat)

The former TV anchor is running for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

MC: When you're running out of steam, what helps you recharge?

NATALIE TENNANT: Any chance I can, I grab my husband and daughter and sneak away to my family farm in Marion County. I grew up there as the youngest of seven kids—that's nine people (including my parents) and one bathroom. The farm made me who I am and it is still my conscience and compass.

MC: What's the biggest challenge facing female candidates?

NT: When I was 22, I became the first woman to represent West Virginia University as the Mountaineer mascot. It's hard to believe now, but that was pretty controversial at the time. I was told to go back to the kitchen and make babies. I was even spit on. But I just kept right on going. I didn't do it to be the first woman. I did it because I wanted to represent my university and my state.

Natalie Tennant currently serves as West Virginia's secretary of state.

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ROCKY LARA, 39 (Democrat)

This former family-law attorney is vying to represent New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District.

MC: How do you unwind at the end of a long day?

ROCKY LARA: I enjoy scrapbooking and paper crafts, so I like to hand-make thank-you cards to send to my supporters. I get to relax and still do something productive for the campaign.

MC: Which is harder: law school or running for Congress?

RL: Running for Congress has certainly been a lot more fun. But my law school training really prepared me for approaching issues from a logical point of view and thoughtfully considering both sides of an argument. These skills are vital to developing policies and common-sense solutions for our communities.

Roxanne "Rocky" Lara was defeated last year in her bid to chair New Mexico's Democratic Party.

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