“If I was old enough, I would run for Mayor.”
– Maisie Mische, Age 14
This past weekend, hours after the crowd of 100,000 had dispersed from the grounds of the State Capitol, my 14 year old Daughter and I were out walking the dog.
As often happens during our walks we get to talking about the world around us.
On this particular walk my Daughter raised with me her frustration with a series of Tweets she had read from people, mostly men, who were mocking the efforts and actions of those who were involved in the many Women’s March events throughout the country.
In particular she was frustrated and upset that the actions of millions of women (and, to be fair, a lot of men) who came together for many different reasons would be so mockingly dismissed because it didn’t fit someone’s particular political or philosophical ideology.
Somewhere between the dog completing her required #1 and # 2 bathroom obligations the conversation continued about the value and importance of getting involved in the world around us.
I suggested to the Daughter that as important as marches, demonstrations and protests were and are in the exercise of free speech and democracy they were only one part of the platform of civic duty and responsibility.
I offered up that my experience and career led me to believe that without political power there is little that can be done to affect real, long-term change.
And, that real political power in America requires holding the levels of power of elective office.
I expressed my amazement and awe that 100,000 people had gathered on the Capitol mall of the Capitol City of St. Paul, Minnesota to give raw power and voice to women.
I then asked her, “Maisie, do you know how many candidates there are for Mayor in St. Paul that are women?”
Her response was, “I think two.”
My response, “I think none.”
She pondered that for a while as the dog continued to believe that each tree along our route was likely the home of a squirrel that needed to be eaten or, at the very least, barked at.
She finally said, not so much to me, as she said to herself:
“If I was old enough, I would run for Mayor.”
I’ve spent the better part of my life in and around government and politics. From a ragged college activist to a city councilmember to a Chief of Staff in the United States Senate and a lot of other things in between I have always believed in the power of political activism to change the world.
But, I have never believed that activism without access to the levers of power in government would ever, by itself, lead to sustainable, structural change in America.
I think history supports my belief.
I am struck by the fact that the City of St. Paul has an open Mayoral seat for the first time in 12 years and there is not a single publicly announced female candidate for Mayor.
I know it isn’t because there is a lack of incredible, qualified, accomplished and powerful women in St. Paul.
They are Democrats and Republicans and Independents and liberals and conservatives and moderates.
And, they are everywhere.
Owning and leading business. Heading up our colleges and universities. Serving in leadership roles in law enforcement and public safety. Serving in elective office at every level in St. Paul.
Yet, among a city of nearly 300,000 there is not a single candidate for Mayor who is a woman.
Which I find both frustrating and appalling.
There was immense political potential this past weekend when 100,000 gathered in St. Paul.
I say political potential and not political power because I am not sure that the one-day activism of a hundred thousand is sustainable over the next four years.
There are four men running for Mayor. Accomplished men, to be sure.
But, in the 163 years since St. Paul was incorporated there has not been a single woman who has served as the Mayor of the City.
During that time there have been 53 Mayors.
In a city where women make up over 51% of the population that simply makes no sense.
So, here’s my offer to any woman who is considering running for Mayor of St. Paul:
- I don’t care whether you are a Democrat or Republican. After all, the race for Mayor is non-partisan.
- I don’t care whether you are a Liberal or Conservative or a Moderate.
- I don’t care whether you have ever run for anything in your life.
What I care about is that you are interested in considering running for Mayor. If you are let me know.
I may no longer know anything about politics in St. Paul. Time has likely passed me by. My days of being somebody that anybody cared about are long past me.
But, I know something about trying to make a difference.
I might have some thoughts and ideas about how to raise money – put together a campaign organization – create a platform – develop a message – and run a competitive campaign.
If you choose to run I may or may not decide to support you for Mayor.
But, you can be sure that I will do all I can to help you make a decision about whether a campaign for Mayor is the right choice for you.
Maybe at the end of the day there are no women willing to run for Mayor of St. Paul because too many people say that the field is set.
Or, there are no women who wish to run because they believe that the process and system is stacked against them.
The former should not be the case even if the latter is true.
And, to make sure the former is not the case the only way to make the latter false is for men – and women – to step up to encourage and support women who believe they have something to offer as a candidate for Mayor of St. Paul.
My 14 year old Daughter is ready to be the first volunteer for your campaign.