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We Are Tough Enough

When women run we shift perspectives. Our road to the White House isn’t now, but it is coming.

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I had just arrived at a park rally for candidates up and down the ballot. It was October in Arizona. It was hot with a capital H. And it was another stop in a long day of events.

My two boys were with me. One was ready to hit the park playground, the other was only content in my arms.

With my candidate smile on, I channeled every last ounce of energy. I was intently focused on looking energetic because for women, tired eyes on the trail are never just tired eyes. Seeming worn only leads to the unwarranted question, “is she tough enough?”

Then, as I started to feel sweat dampen my Anita blue t-shirt, a couple and their little girl caught my attention.

“We’re really here,” the mom said “because our daughter is a huge fan and just had to meet Anita.”

Campaigns can make you cynical.

But the most grounding and powerful moments are those that return you to a place of hope and purpose.

Every time a mom thanks me for doing this and tells me about her daughter, I am fueled to keep persisting. Every time a little girl’s eyes widen upon meeting me because she sees hope for her future, I find the energy to knock more, to call more, to push harder.

Seeing ourselves in leadership truly does matter.

Defeating a culture of tough

I watched with awe and hope as an inclusive field, one with not just one strong woman, but several strong women, took to the stage for the first Democratic primary debate in the 2020 presidential race.

While many complained of the debates being too crowded, I was simply giddy at the potential. I was hopeful for a future of sisterhood and female leadership, one where compassion could pair with competence in a way that our country so direly needs.

I have had the opportunity to speak with two of the women on that stage and they had both personally reaffirmed for me that as women we can be compassionate, competent and successful. We can be strong leaders without trying to be “tough” like a man. We are tough enough.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and I had the most genuine conversation I think I’ve ever had with a politician because she didn’t feel the need to be a Senator during our chat. She was just Elizabeth.

Within minutes, we were chuckling and commiserating over the constant advice women candidates receive on the trail. No matter your accomplishments or wins, the assumption is women need saving, we need help with the strategy.

Elizabeth and I decided to conclude that it wasn’t about us but perhaps women are just better listeners and people just want to be heard.

We shifted the sexism to a winning argument. Now that’s tough.

In the fall of 2018, I was sitting in a hospital waiting to hear from my husband’s neurosurgeon when instead Senator Kamala Harris called. Flustered and an emotional wreck, I didn’t leave much of a “tough” impression.

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A few days later, we met in person. She quickly pulled me aside and simply said, “How is he?”

I shook my head. I told her I didn’t know because he was in surgery again right at that moment.

She squeezed my hand and we shared a look.

It was the most compassionate, most knowing look that got me through that day. It was a look that said: We are strong, I am here for you and right now we have to be the tough women they are here to see.

We were tough. And we still are.

We simply have more people to convince.

The path ahead

We let fear control the narrative. We continue to perpetuate a notion that women are weaker and less able to take on the big challenges.

A woman could have beaten Donald Trump.

Hopefully one will get the chance to prove it at least as a running mate in 2020, and we’ll just put the vision of the presidency on hold for a bit. It is not lost, just delayed.

We have more perspectives to shift. Even if it takes longer than we want, it will happen.

It will happen because we are empowered women who are raising our voices, who are running and working on campaigns and who are raising the next generation, both girls and boys, with a new set of rules.

Do you think my two boys will ever question if a woman is electable? No. They know mamas are tough.

It is why I will continue to not only proudly run alongside other women in my race but also fiercely support women up and down the ballot and encourage others to run. I will do so knowing this is the groundwork. This is how we change gender bias and how we model the future for the little girl in the park.

💙Thank you to every woman who runs and the women and men who support them. Together, we’ll break the barrier with our unique toughness. Happy International Women’s Day.

Written by

Mom to two boys, Tech COO, Entrepreneur, 2020 Candidate and 2018 Democratic Nominee for U.S. House in Arizona’s 6th District.

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