Friday, July 29, 2011

Interviewing Lois Frankel

By guest blogger Anna Tsiotsias, NWPC Intern

It was my second day at a new internship in Washington, DC and I walked into a room full of women representing organizations at the forefront of the women’s organizations in politics. It was a group meeting of Political Action Committees (PACs) and the subject of the day was congressional candidate Lois Frankel (FL-22). As a novice intern with little experience, I was intrigued, yet intimidated, by the women seated around me.

I did have one thing working in my favor—geography. My first exposure to the world of PAC operations hit close to home. As a South Florida native, I am well aware of the problems that Florida’s 22nd Congressional District faces - from budget cuts at the state level, to Medicare, to Choice, the issues are all too relevant to the women’s organizations represented at the meeting.

The women sitting at that long, oval table spanned generations and represented prominent figures in the feminist movement. We all waited excitedly for the candidate. When Ms. Frankel arrived, her confidence as a tried-and-true public servant matched the overwhelming enthusiasm in the room. The PAC representatives did not waste any time in getting down to work and began “grilling” Ms. Frankel, most respectfully, about her positions and previous record on women’s issues and other issues that would be relevant in her race. Ms. Frankel, with little hesitation, espoused her support of a woman’s right to make reproductive choices, protecting Medicare, and her plan to create jobs in her district.

While the issues and the campaign held a starring role in the conversation, what the experience uniquely provided was a glance of the woman behind the candidate. Ms. Frankel began with an anecdote about leading the effort to get the coat racks, which were tailored to a male stature, lowered when she was a student at Georgetown Law School. I, standing at an extremely intimidating 5’6”, was instantly impressed with Frankel’s early drive to improve conditions for women. Frankel has used her years in public service to make life better, not only for women, but for all the people that she has served.

Ms. Frankel, who most recently served as Mayor of West Palm Beach, revitalized the downtown area, built a state-of-the-art library, and reduced crime. Her record is impressive, and it needs to be. Ms. Frankel briefed the group on her incumbent opponent, Alan West.

Representative West, who currently serves District 22, is a Tea Party sweetheart who uses his voice amongst extremists to oppose women and women’s issues. He was most recently in the news for calling Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, also from Florida, “vile and despicable” for opposing his opinions on Medicare on the floor of the House.

West infamously condemned progressive women’s groups for “neutering American men” and for exacerbating the budget deficit. It was hard to believe that these women­— PAC representatives, campaign staff, and Ms. Frankel — who sat to my left, right and directly across the table are engaging in the mass castration of American men. There was no sense of aggression, just overwhelming support for women and the issues that matter to them. Besides, the sole male in the room did not seem to fear for his manhood and, in fact, seemed to take on the role with a sense of pride.

Progressive women are sometimes accused of, as West said, “neutering American men” and weakening America. Pardon my use of the “F-word”, but all I have to say is “F-that.” That is, “Feminist-that.” Comments like the ones made by opponent Alan West make the work of the National Women’s Political Caucus and all other pro-women PACs even more relevant.

It was an eye opening and refreshing experience to be in a room of people so energized and passionate about a common goal: women's parity and equality.

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