Front Page coverage: Women Rule
Concord Monitor: New Hampshire’s all-female delegation: We never do it alone
There has been lots of scuttlebutt about U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s aspirations for higher office, but her 8-year-old daughter, Kate, isn’t on board. Such a move could undermine her own ambitions.
“She came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I don’t want you to run for president,’ ” Ayotte said yesterday at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester at a forum featuring and celebrating New Hampshire’s all-female congressional delegation and governor’s office.
“I said, ‘Kate, that’s not going to happen. Why are you asking me this?’ ” Ayotte continued. “She said, ‘You know what, Mom? Because I want to be the first woman president.’ ”
There will be a female president in our lifetime, the members of the history-making group – Ayotte, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Reps.-Elect Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster and Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, said yesterday. “If it isn’t your daughter, it might be mine,” Hassan said. “Or one of the many girls who comes up to me and says, ‘I want to be president.’ ”
The event, a breakfast hosted by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and moderated by its president, Robin Comstock, allowed the five to discuss what helped them succeed, what their legislative priorities are and where women are still at a disadvantage.
“I find myself going back to the forefathers about liberty and justice for all,” said Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat who recently unseated Charlie Bass, a Peterborough Republican. “They weren’t thinking about us at the time,” she said.
“There was a tremendous gender gap in my election,” Kuster said.
At the heart of their political success, the women said, was the support they’ve received from their families, many of whom were in the audience.
Shea-Porter, a Rochester Democrat who just won the 1st District seat back from Frank Guinta of Manchester, said that when she visited her ailing mother last year, worried that the energy expended running for office would take away from their time together.
“She just looked at me and said, ‘You better run,’ ” Shea-Porter said. “And that’s the kind of support you get from people in your family that lifts you up each rung of the ladder.”
Her teenagers were pretty easygoing about the whole thing.
“I told my daughter, she looked at me and she said, ‘Just don’t embarrass us,’ ” Shea-Porter said.
The officials, though, started their careers at a time when there was a lot less flexibility for working women. Shaheen recalled struggling to find child care and now watches her own daughters dealing with the same challenges.
Ayotte, who was about six months pregnant when she was appointed attorney general, said she relies heavily on family members to help with her two children. But, Ayotte said and the other women affirmed, the challenges she faces are the same as many other families.
Kuster credited Rath, Young & Pignatelli – where she practiced law and lobbied for years – with letting her work four days a week. Still, she had to take calls at home now and then.
“At one point I had to lock myself in a closet on a conference call,” Kuster said. “The kids were out playing and the client asked me, ‘Are there children there?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, our office is next to a school,’ which was true.”
But just as Kuster was the driver on her mother’s 1980 congressional campaign, her son, Zach, was her own driver this year.
And, of course, there were the husbands.
When Hassan said she was first asked to run for the New Hampshire Senate, she said she had about 24 hours to make up her mind and was on the fence. She had two kids – one with significant physical disabilities – and a law practice, after all.
“It was my husband who said, ‘Hey, you know, you’d be really good at this; We’ll make it work,’ ” Hassan said. “And in fact, we made it work.”
Ayotte had a similar experience. When she left the attorney general’s office, her family dropped to one income. She said she never would have run for the Senate if her husband, Joe, hadn’t encouraged her.
“It does take someone in your life to say, ‘Yes, you could do that.’ And you could be that for someone,” Ayotte said.
Shaheen said more women need to be asked to run for office.
“We’re going to get women elected to office when women run for office,” Shaheen said. “We have thousands of positions for city council, for school boards, for municipal government that go unfilled every year because people don’t run for them.”
There are some issues that they believe they’ll bring a woman’s touch to, the officials said yesterday. Kuster, for example, said she wants to see violence against women addressed more effectively.
Both Ayotte and Shaheen said lowering the nation’s $16.2 trillion debt is one of their top priorities.
But for all the diversity of experience, they said they approach their jobs with the same goals a man would.
“We want to do the best we can for the state of New Hampshire and the country,” Shea-Porter said. “And that’s what men want to do, too, when they take office.”
(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MAKConnors )
Union Leader: New Hampshire’s all-female Congressional delegation honored at sold-out event in Manchester
By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader
MANCHESTER — The slogan on the T-shirts for sale in the lobby said it all: “New Hampshire, where women rule.”
The YWCA contingent selling the souvenirs was part of an overflow crowd at St. Anselm College on Friday, celebrating the state’s all-female congressional delegation, and the fact that women now hold leadership positions in all three branches of state government – as governor-elect, Speaker of the House and chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
On hand for the occasion, hosted by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, were Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, newly elected U.S. representatives Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, and incumbent U.S. senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte.
In a conversation moderated by chamber president and CEO Robin Comstock, they touched on issues ranging from the likelihood of a woman President to the pressures of politics on family life. Comstock told the audience at the outset that people across the country viewed the New Hampshire election outcome as historic, and the panelists agreed.
“Pink is the new power color in New Hampshire,” Kuster joked.
Shaheen reminded the crowd, however, that equality for women in many areas remains elusive. “Even though we’ve elected a number of women in New Hampshire to lead the state, the fact is doors are still not open for all women, and part of what we’ve got to do is make sure the doors are open for all women, for everybody, so people have the same access to opportunity in New Hampshire and the country.”
Wage equality, affordable child care, domestic violence and the need to preserve a social safety net were recurring themes at the gathering.
“No matter what your opinion is on these issues, there are no longer women’s issues, per se,” Kuster said. “These are people issues.”
She pointed out that 50,000 women in the state are the sole head of household. “There’s no other money coming into those households, and 10,000 of those families are living in poverty,” she said. “So if we could pay each woman a dollar for a dollar’s work, instead of 73 cents, we could bring all those kids up.”
Violence against women is taking a terrible toll, she said, calling it “an issue people would prefer not to know about; prefer not to talk about. We’ve got to address women’s safety.”
Shea-Porter warned that women would be particularly hard hit by reductions in Medicare or Social Security, since many more women than men retire without a pension or substantial savings. “They contributed so much,” she said, “but they are not protected in old age because they did not get that big job, or that education. Those doors were closed.”
Ayotte, whose children are 8 and 5, said women are still considered the primary caregivers, no matter their profession. “When I was campaigning I got a lot of questions about what’s going to happen to your children,” she said, “and actually I think those questions are there much more for women than they are for men. That’s just the reality.”
Much of the conversation focused on the role of women mentors, particularly the examples set by mothers, and the support of husbands and other family members that made political life possible for the five women. “We all struggle with work and family balance,” Hassan said. “We all still think about the impact that service has on our families, what it’s like for our kids.”
All agreed that women are particularly important in politics at a time when the public is placing a premium on consensus building and demanding an end to gridlock.
Shaheen described how all female senators meet four times a year. “We have dinner together,” she said. “What’s said at that dinner stays at the dinner. But we joke a lot that if we were running things, we could deal with a lot of the problems more successfully because we have that relationship.”
All five agreed that the country will see a woman President, perhaps in the near future. “Maybe in 2016 when Hillary (Clinton) runs,” said Shaheen, to loud applause.
The size of the crowd and the mood of the audience reflected Kuster’s observation that the 2012 election was “a real watershed moment” for women, with New Hampshire leading the way.
Young girls are growing up with expectations made possible by the female role models they now see around them, Ayotte said, describing how one daughter asked if she planned to run for President.
After dismissing the notion, Ayotte said, “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t want you to run for President,” the daughter replied. “I want to be the first woman President.”
Thanks to the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who pulled off the event to huge success, and allowed us to proudly partner with them at the event, which was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.