Imagine a great person, a principled woman, a dedicated mom in Congress. Yes, there are already a few of those, but we’re very close to electing one more. On April 8th, former California State Senator Jackie Speier may succeed to where she aimed nearly three decades ago, U.S. Congress. Speier, shown left with me and my daughter, a resident of Hillsborough, California, the youngest woman elected to the San Mateo County supervisors, reportedly the first mom to breast feed in the California State Assembly (as a new widow), and a well-respected two-term state senator first ran for congress after a terrifying experience where her boss, then U.S. Congressman, Leo Ryan, was killed in front of her eyes.
This is a woman who I’ve had the privilege of seeing in action firsthand and whom I have admired for many years. (Photo is from last year, taken on my phone of me, my daughter, and Senator Speier.) People like her are rare, and our nation would be incredibly lucky to have her legislating on our behalf. Due to a sad twist of fate, Senator Speier may become Congresswoman Speier in a special election next week.
For those not following this race, here’s a great article that sums up much of what’s going on, although the latest news is that Larry Lessig decided not to jump in. I’m glad. I’ve met him, I have friends who have worked with him, and I think he’s an incredible person with a valiant mission, but he can make a difference in a variety of ways. You couldn’t interview a thousand people and find one better qualified for this role than Jackie Speier. She’s worked her whole life to get to this point. She could do other jobs too or come at her work from another angle, but this is the best vehicle for her to serve the public good.
Speier has written about the traumatic experiences she suffered through that led her to running for office in This is Not the Life I Ordered, along with three of her close friends. (Here’s my review.) Essentially the story she tells is that she was shot and left for dead in Guyana in 1978 after her boss, Congressman Ryan, was killed on a diplomatic trip exploring the Peoples Temple cult. After her recovery, Jackie decided to follow in his footsteps. When she lost that election, she started at the ground level locally and worked her way up, tirelessly supporting women and families along the way. While pregnant with her second child, her husband was killed in a car accident – without insurance – and she was left to support her family as a public servant. Someday someone should make a movie about this woman, because her story is almost unbelievable.
Jackie Speier is not the first mom to run for Congress, and she certainly won’t be the last, but I highlight her candidacy here because she has taken on a lot of issues that I feel strongly about, such as privacy protections and public transportation support. Her “Top Ten Legislative Accomplishments” are listed on her site, but essentially here you have a woman who is well-loved, well-qualified, and well-prepared for the role she’s running for… just days before she announced her intention to run, I was telling my mother how much I hoped Jackie would run for congress next. She tried for Lieutenant Governor a few years ago and lost the state party nomination by a fairly small margin. I helped with that campaign early on and got to know many of the people who work with her well.
Tom Lantos, the only member of congress to survive the holocaust, was formerly in the post that the special election is for next week. He became suddenly ill with cancer and withdrew from running for reelection, quickly endorsing Senator Speier’s candidacy. He then died and he has big shoes to fill. One MOMocrat wrote to me that she hopes Jackie will carry on his human rights work if she’s elected. It’s not often we get to know candidates as people and see them for their core values and what really motivates them, but I’ve gotten the distinct sense from my limited time with Jackie that she’s as principled as they come. She knows how to play the game, but she plays it for the people. (And have I mentioned how great her kids are? From what I can tell, she’s an excellent mom too.)
Maybe I’m preaching to the choir at this point, but here’s something extraordinary – look at this list of endorsements – it reads like a who’s who of the California Democratic Party. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many strong endorsements for one candidate. I have to go take care of my own daughter now who just woke up, but I will say it makes me sleep better at night thinking of more moms in public office and I expect great things from who I hope will be future Congresswoman Jackie Speier.
Sarah Granger worked briefly for Jackie Speier’s 2006 campaign for Lieutenant Governor (before going on extended bed rest). She is also graduate of the Emerge California pro-choice Democratic political leadership program, where Speier is a member of the Advisory Board. In her earlier years, Granger directed the launch of what Wired News called the “first true weblog to be put up by a politician.” This article first appeared in MOMocrats and is republished with the permission of the author.