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 18!
Name: Kate Marshall
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: Nevada Secretary of State
Challenger: Republican Barbara Cegavske
Here’s the deal: Marshall is the current Nevada treasurer. She was endorsed by EMILY’s List, where President Stephanie Schriock said ”In this competitive election, Kate is the only candidate looking out for women and families in Nevada.” Marshall helped create the Nevada College Kick Start Program – the first ever state-run college savings account program – opening a $50 savings account for public school kindergarten students.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
I’ve been the only woman in almost every room I have worked in. I started out as a white collar prosecutor in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice. I remember walking into a conference room and everyone standing up and I wondered why? Then I realized it was because a woman had walked in and they didn’t know what else to do. Once, opposing counsel chided me on the phone: are you always antitrust? Don’t you trust your daddy? As a woman in a field dominated by men, you have to develop thick skin and work harder than everyone else to get ahead.
But at some point you realize that being a woman is also a great advantage. I think women really strive to represent everyone and have the advantage of a broader view of and more empathy for where people are in their lives and what they need.
What will you bring to the table that your opponent can’t?
I have a broad range of experience, skills and judgment that Nevadans are looking for in a secretary of state. My priorities for our state are the priorities of Nevada families. As Nevada’s Treasurer, I’ve already had the chance to create positive changes in government to help give middle class families a fair shot – by saving the state millions, fostering economic development in innovative ways and creating new programs, like College Kick Start, to help the middle class get ahead.
The secretary of state is responsible for implementing both election laws and business registration regulations in a fair and equitable manner while avoiding unintended consequences – laws and regulations I am familiar with from my work as a lawyer. I have had my own legal practice so I know what it is like to be a “very small” business and the frustrations of having to spend time dealing with bureaucratic paperwork and red tape. This is an office that needs to work for our state and I know how to make that happen
If elected, what will be your #1 priority?
My first priority is to help middle class families and small businesses in Nevada succeed, it always has and always will be. That starts with ensuring that every eligible voter in Nevada has access to the voting booth so they have a say in our government. One of the pillars of our democracy is that every citizen in this country has a voice in how he or she is governed. President Johnson said, “we can’t legislate human dignity. We can legislate to give a man a vote and a voice in in his own government. Then with his vote and his voice he is equipped with a very potent weapon to guarantee his own dignity.” That is a principle I will keep in mind as Nevada’s next secretary of state.
What can we expect to see from your campaign this summer?
I will be crisscrossing Nevada, talking to voters, listening to their concerns and telling them about my strategy to run fair and honest elections and my plans to attract new businesses to the state.
I am also focused on my work as state treasurer and fulfilling my duty to Nevadans as we continue down the road of economic recovery. I am very excited to implement the second year of my College Kick Start program, which creates college savings accounts for all public school kindergarteners in Nevada. College Kick Start is the first ever state-run college savings account program – using management fees and not taxpayer dollars – to deposit $50 into savings accounts for all of our kindergarteners. Those accounts put every child on the same starting line to make a college education a reality. In its first year, those savings accounts earned 12% interest. I tell parents all the time that compound interest compounds your child’s future.
I am so proud of this program and excited to see that Maine and Colorado are following suit and creating similar programs in their states. Just one more way that Nevada is leading the way!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
Work hard and listen. You can never be assured that you will be the smartest or the wittiest or the most personable, but you can work harder than everyone else and that will get you 90% of the way there. When you get there – listen. Most people are eager to tell you what’s important to them. One of the greatest things about campaigning is that you come away with a real understanding of the needs and desires of the people you represent and all you have to do is listen.
Which women in politics inspire you?
Frankie Sue DelPapa. For people outside of Nevada who are asking, ‘who is that?’ she was Nevada’s first female secretary of state, Nevada’s first female attorney general and the person who got me into public service. She has always been true to herself and there for the people of Nevada. She never lost sight of what and who was important and every day she went to bat for the little guy.
When I worked for Frankie Sue, I was able to expand the Toys for Tots program in Nevada to reach every county in the state. At one Tots’ Christmas event, we ran out of bikes. These children had lined up – some had probably waited for two hours or more – to get a bike. Frankie Sue told me she needed to go run an errand. She came back with six bikes she had bought with her own money because she couldn’t bear to see those children receive nothing for Christmas. There is no one in politics that I admire more. She is the true model of a public servant.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
As a working mom, I know how hard it can be for moms and for all women to make ends meet. Women in Nevada earn just 85 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, African-American women earn just 64 cents, and Latinas just 52 cents.
If women were paid the same as men for the same job, we could reduce poverty in this country by 50%. When we create financial stability for Nevada women, they can do the same for their children and their family. That would not only change their families, but their communities, and the future of our state.
Women are not on a level playing field and yet they often handle most of the financial responsibilities for their families. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. They are the ones who make sure the bills are paid, the electricity stays on and that their children have clean clothes to wear.
I launched the Nevada Women’s Money Conference in 2012 to give women and moms a place where they can ask the questions and get the tools they need to navigate through their own financial situations, whether they need to get out of debt, pay for a child’s college education or care for an ailing loved one.
The Women’s Money Conference is now in its third year and its membership is growing. And this year I launched the first-in-the-country Latina Money Conference, conducted entirely in Spanish, to better serve Nevada’s fastest growing population.
I’ve talked to Conference participants who have gone on to purchase their first home, see a 50-point increase in their credit score and even pay off $30,000 of debt. When you give women knowledge of the playbook and put them on a level playing field, great things can happen – that’s my focus.
Wild Card! What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Every day when I roll out of bed, I give a quick thanks to God that I’m upright. I head down stairs, have my morning shake while reading my news digests. Then, I get my two daughters up and cajole them to eat their breakfast and make their lunches and get them to school without leaving homework on the kitchen counter. Then the day starts…
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place!