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 10!
Name: Amanda Renteria
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: California House
Challenger: Republican David Valadao
Here’s the deal: Renteria – the Senate’s first-ever Latina chief of staff – is focusing on drought and immigration during her campaign against a freshman tea party opponent in the 21st Congressional District. Renteria, who has previously worked for Senators Dianne Feinstein and Debbie Stabenow, was praised by President Obama this summer as an “outstanding candidate” during a fundraising event in San Francisco.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
One of the first questions a reporter asked me was, “Do you think a woman can win in the Central Valley of California?” I responded, “Absolutely and now is the time!” I can’t wait to prove that a woman can win in the Central Valley, but even more importantly, to show that it makes a difference to have all voices at the table.
What do you bring that your opponent can’t?
I’ve been described as “a girl who does her homework.” And, I’ve done my best to truly prepare to serve the communities where I was born and raised. The unique perspective and experience of being the daughter of farm workers and a small business, a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Business School, a teacher in my hometown, and a chief of staff in the United States Senate will help me make a difference for the families of the 21st district. In Congress, I will always have an open mind to work with all sides, a passion for solving problems, and a sincere desire to serve others.
If elected, what will be your #1 priority?
As someone who has dedicated my career to public service, I want our democracy to work again. It starts with making sure everyone votes and then, making sure Congress works. From day one, my priority will be getting both, Democrats and Republicans, working together to solve problems. This is especially important in the 21st district because it’s hard to imagine a district in greater need of leadership. We are facing an unprecedented drought that is affecting our entire economy, an immigration crisis that is tearing families apart and harming our businesses, and an education crisis that leaves too many of our kids behind. It’s time our leaders put partisan differences aside and do something about the issues our families are facing.
What can we expect to see from your campaign this summer?
You can expect to see the hardest working team around. No one will be more passionate and more willing to do what it takes to solve the problems we face. We will execute a strategy that will get out the vote and empower a new generation of leaders in the Central Valley. You will see this energy all throughout the summer because we know there are no shortcuts. We must be knocking on doors, walking the neighborhoods, attending community events, and continually building our grassroots family. It’s going to be a busy summer!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
We need you! We need more women to step up and add their voices, their perspectives, and their ideas. It’s not easy, but there’s no better reward in life than to make a difference in someone else’s.
Which women in politics inspire you?
I am inspired by women in politics who have paved the way for others.
The first female State Senator in California was Rose Ann Vuich from the Central Valley. She would ring a bell whenever her colleagues addressed the Senate as “Gentleman” to remind them that a woman had joined them.
More recently, I had the honor of working for two pioneer women - Senator Feinstein of California and Senator Stabenow of Michigan. They are examples of what public service is all about – creating a better future for others. They, too, have waged the battles in their own style and with their own grace, and have inspired young women across America to step up and lead.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
My first contribution will be to make sure we no longer have a Congressman who voted against Equal Pay for women. Second, I will keep fighting until women are fully respected. As a working mom, I know the challenges that families face. The wage gap is hurting our communities – it hurts families’ ability to put food on the table, save for retirement, and provide for their children. In this country, in today’s society, there is no reason we are still fighting battles of equality.
Wild Card! How do you relax at the end of a long week of campaigning?
Relax? We only have four months! But, whenever I do have a spare moment, I spend it with my boys (2 yrs old and 4 yrs old) on a bike ride, playing hoops, or dancing in the kitchen.
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place!