Women are at the forefront of many of this year’s critical and most-watched races. From candidates for governorships making waves from red-to-blue states, to game-changing senate seats up for grabs, women are making their voices heard now more than ever. Pivotal issues, including equal pay for women, health care, and campus sexual assault are front and center in Washington and statewide with women leading the charge. While the 113th Congress boasted 20 female senators – more than any other Congress to date, women still only make up 24.2% of state legislators in the U.S. With only a few months until the November midterm elections, it’s down to the wire for many candidates striving to change all that and bring a female perspective to the table.
To showcase a year of textbook races for women, msnbc introduces ’30 in 30,’ a new series where the 30 of the most dynamic women candidates seeking office in 2014 will be spotlighted: One a day over the next 30 days. The candidates – Democrat and Republican – have answered questions based on women’s issues and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Welcome to Day 27!
Name: Alma Adams
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: North Carolina U.S. House
Challenger: Republican Vince Coakley
Here’s the deal: Adams – a Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina facing Republican Vince Coakley – won a seven-way primary in May. Adams has fought for equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and is famous for her diverse hat collection. North Carolina hasn’t elected a new Democratic woman to the House in over 20 years.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
As a mother, grandmother and teacher, issues affecting women and families are personal to me, not political, and my experiences growing up and raising a family in North Carolina have shaped who I am as a legislator. I have always fought for those who otherwise didn’t have a voice at the table. I’ve fought for issues like equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage because I know how deeply they impact families and our economy.
Recently, I was in a seven way primary with six men and, like far too many women in too many professions, I was underestimated. Everyone thought this race would go to a runoff and didn’t think I would even make it to the top two. So I said ok, I’ll show them, and I went to work. No one knows how to work and multitask like a woman and, while my initial thought was I might be outspent or outraised, I was determined not to be outworked- and in the end, I outraised them. I captured 43.6% of the vote, winning without a runoff and running those men off! We did what everyone thought was impossible, and I am proud to be the Democratic nominee to represent the families and workers of North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District.
What will you bring that your opponent can’t?
I will bring the voices of all the people I have met and fought for over the years - the middle class and working families from across our state, the minimum wage workers, the teachers and students and small business owners here in my District - I will bring their stories and their needs to Congress and give them a seat at the table. I will also bring over three decades of service from my early days as an educator, sitting on the Greensboro School Board, and then the Greensboro City Council, to the past two decades where I have been in the North Carolina General Assembly. I have worked for the people this entire time leading the fight to increase the minimum wage for the first time in nine years, standing up to countless attacks on women’s health care, and working day in and out to invest in our classrooms so our kids have opportunities to succeed and find good jobs here in North Carolina. I will also be bringing my famous hat collection, which represents the many roles I have had the privilege of serving in throughout my career.
If elected, what will be your #1 priority?
Creating jobs and increasing the minimum wage. It deeply concerns me that there are people all around us who work hard every day – often at two or three jobs, who continue to live in poverty and are not able to make ends meet for themselves or their families. We need to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 and allow it to be adjusted for inflation to ensure workers are being paid an adequate living wage. Hardworking people deserve decent wages, too many working citizens are at or below the poverty level- working hard but getting nowhere.
What can we expect to see from your campaign this summer?
I am going to continue being out across my District every day, meeting with voters, and listening to the issues that are important to them. I’ll be knocking on doors, making phone calls – and telling anybody who will listen – that there’s a clear choice in this election, I am the candidate who will stand up and fight for you in Congress.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
Don’t get discouraged and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Also, be willing and ready to work, you must be dedicated and prepared to put in time, energy and work equally as hard as the team surrounding you. A lot of people do not necessarily understand the process of running a political campaign, what it takes to raise the funds you need to communicate to all of your voters or mobilize them to get out and vote for you. If you continue to work hard and do not get discouraged, you can be successful.
Which women in politics inspire you?
Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chisolm, Maxine Waters, and Nancy Pelosi inspire me. These women are courageous leaders who have not only paved the way for women like me to advance as I have, but they have also broken down barriers for civil rights and women’s empowerment.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
Women across our state and nation are business leaders, teachers, entrepreneurs, elected leaders, mothers and more. We also bring home a growing share of our families’ incomes. However, in North Carolina women are paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. It’s even worse for women of color, who, in North Carolina make between 48 and 64 cents for every dollar a male counterpart makes.
North Carolina families deserve an economy that works for everyone. That’s why I have worked in the General Assembly to increase the minimum wage and why I will work with anyone and everyone in Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to provide an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.
Wild Card! What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?
“Tammy” with Melissa McCarthy, it was hilarious. I am a jokester at heart and like to laugh and have fun whenever I can.
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place