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Don’t Listen to the ‘Parade of Horribles’

Women politicians give advice to those considering a run for office.

Photograph by Danielle Rivard

The mantra of a recent Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy panel at Boston College Law School featuring three local and newly elected women politicians was: “Women should run for office.” Nationwide statistics reflect that women are dramatically outnumbered in elected office, both state and federal. In an effort to empower and inspire women to consider running for office on municipal, state, and federal levels, the panelists candidly shared their journeys with students, faculty, and community members.

“Someone asked me, will I do it? And I said yes, I will…I prayed about it and I said: no guts, no glory. So it didn’t take several times to ask me,” Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer said of her initial decision to run for the office. Spicer’s campaign launched with a Facebook write-in and bloomed from there. Framingham just became a city, and she is its first mayor.

Spicer, along with Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards for District 1, were open about their pathways to elected office. They shared details about their decisions to run, the challenges they faced on the campaign trail, and the wisdom they’ve acquired. The panel was moderated by Rachael Rollins, candidate for Suffolk County District Attorney (and member of the Rappaport Center Advisory Board).

All three women overcame separate challenges, ranging from naysayers to videotaped suppression of campaign materials. However, that didn’t stop them from continuing their missions.

“There was just a parade of horribles as to why I shouldn’t even try,” Edwards said of detractors when she decided to run. “If someone is fighting that hard to keep you out of the race, then you should definitely run because they must know something that you don’t know about your abilities…to possibly win.” In the face of tough challenges (or challengers), Edwards said she personally knocked on more than 10,000 doors in her district during her campaign to win.

The panelists emphasized the importance of knowing yourself, being resolute in your beliefs, and having a network of people who support your vision.

“You absolutely have to know who you are and have thought it through,” said Fuller, who is Newton’s first woman mayor. “Yes, there’s some messaging to it; it is part of the art of winning. You have to be absolutely clear about who you are and why you want to run for office…you need an Abe Lincoln story.” It is equally important, she continued, to “surround yourself with good people who care deeply and have good ideas.”

Human connection also plays an important role in running for office, the women agreed.

“For many women you’re going to undercount or undersell what you think you’re bringing to the table,” Edwards said. “When you reflect on yourself, it’s amazing what you have. However, the ability to connect with people is completely dependent on being able to know yourself and know that part of you is in them [your constituents] and part of them is in you.”

Photo, from left: Lydia Edwards, Ruthanne Fuller, Yvonne Spicer, and Rachael Rollins