President, National Organization for Women, DC Chapter
Monica Weeks currently serves as President of the DC NOW chapter. As president, she successfully organized for DC to pass the most progressive paid family leave policy in the US. She was previously DC NOW’s Membership Director and mobilized young women of color to join the organization. Monica has served on NOW’s national board since 2016 and chairs the Immigration Protections Committee.
Raised in Key Largo, FL, Monica is a first-generation Cuban American. She has worked as an administrative assistant at the Council of the Americas, and as a grants and finance coordinator at the World Resources Institute (WRI). She was also an integral member of the Gender Working Group at WRI helping to integrate gender across institutional project plans and policies. Excited by the chance to elect the first woman president, Monica left WRI to join the Hillary Clinton campaign as a fellow in the 2016 Iowa caucuses. Currently she runs her own photography business.
A first-generation college graduate, Monica holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science specializing in International Relations from the University of Central Florida and a master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies with a graduate certificate in women’s studies from Florida International University. She received the Tinker Field Research Grant to complete her thesis on the effectiveness of NGOs on the status of women in Nicaragua after the 1979 revolution. Her thesis was then published as a book in June 2012 by Lambert Academic Publishing.
Monica was recently appointed to the Women’s March DC Board. She was appointed to the SheDC task force for the DC Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives in 2015. She has been featured on Voice of America’s Noticias and International Edition, NPR, and Marie Claire and her work has been featured in the New York Times and ImpactoNY.
GJC 2017 Panel Discussion. Political Participation: Why We Need Women to Run for Office and the Importance of Intersectionality in Political Leadership.
Moderator: Monica Weeks, President, D.C. NOW
Panelists: Elizabeth Guzmán, Virginia House Delegate for District 31, Jennifer Carroll Foy, Virginia House Delegate for District 2, Jamie Maniscalco, Finance Director for Emerge America, and Chelsea Wilson, Chair for She Should Run Foundation
Women make up over half the population yet only represent 20 percent of Congress, 25 percent of state legislature seats, and 12 percent of governorships. While women have proven that they can raise money and win elections at comparable, if not higher, rates than men, too few women run for office at all.
A new survey, sponsored by POLITICO, American University and Loyola Marymount University, finds that President Donald Trump’s election has mobilized Democratic women to take political action. Democratic women are signing petitions and making donations at much higher rates than they did before the election. But the poll also shows that women in both parties remain significantly less likely than men to have thought about running for office—even after Trump’s victory.
Organizations such as Emerge and She Should Run are working to fix this and helping to elect more women into office every day. And they aren’t just looking for anyone. They are recruiting dynamic women who are intersectional, thoughtful organizers intent on making their communities better.
She Should Run has set a goal to elect 250,000 women to office by 2030. But is this possible and will this new crop of women running for office represent the rich, diverse American population? This panel heard from two candidates currently running for office, two women helping to elect women into office, and our moderator who just ran for office. They discussed how gender, race, and class affect one’s chances of running and the real issues candidates face while running for office.
The following highlights from their talk were prepared from session notes taken by 3L law student Elisa Hawkins Pedrosa. It is wonderful to be able to announce that both candidates won their seats in the Virginia House of Delegates on November 7th, so their hard work and strategy paid off!
The Challenges of Running for Office
Jennifer Carroll Foy was surprised by the amount of time and sacrifice it takes to run for office. She was pregnant with twins while running in the primary against an incumbent Republican opponent. The incumbent had name recognition and could afford to campaign full-time, so Jennifer had to work harder — knocking on people’s doors and using the personal touch to reach out to constituents. She won by 14 votes after a recount, so Jennifer emphasized that she is proof that every vote counts.
Elizabeth Guzmán agreed that the amount of work and campaign calls were a challenge. She also emphasized the challenge of fund-raising. Elizabeth and her husband agreed that they would not use personal money for the campaign. That required her to spend a lot of time on the phone telling people her story to get people to support her campaign. During the primaries, she had to raise the funds herself, not through the Democratic campaign. “Campaigning is a full time job,” Elizabeth said, but does not pay. She had to work two full time jobs: running for office and her regular job.
Running at the Intersection of Gender and Race
Both candidates encountered sexist beliefs on the campaign trail. Elizabeth is one of four siblings in her family. Her father is a feminist and encouraged Elizabeth to accomplish whatever she set her mind to. However, when she started running for office, she was asked how she would balance running for office and taking care of her family. Men were not asked this question. Thanks to her upbringing, Elizabeth was confident she could run for office and have a family just as well as a man.
Elizabeth was also inspired by young Hispanic girls who told her that they looked up to her. Her opponent was extremely vocal about demonizing and profiling Latinx people. Elizabeth felt inspired that she could provide a role model for girls of color and encourage them to run for office in the future.
When asked if she was going to stop running for office because she was pregnant, Jennifer responded “Why can’t I be a politician and a mother?” Male candidates who were running alongside Jennifer also had newborn kids, and they were not asked this question. Jennifer noted that her husband is supportive and is more than capable of taking care of their kids. She also highlighted that women candidates, who make the same asks, receive fewer donations and lower dollar amounts than men.
The most racist questions Jennifer was asked were how could she afford to run for office and how could she speak so eloquently? Jennifer ignores the stereotypes and acknowledges that she must work even harder as a minority. She was trained to embrace that she will be the only one in the room who looks like her.
Jamie Maniscalco noted that after the Trump election, more women than ever wanted to apply to Emerge America’s training program. The organization had to diversify to meet the need of regional and national members. She Should Run also received a wave of applicants. Chelsea Wilson said that the Incubator had just launched, and the number of women applicants increased from 5,000 women to 15,000 women in response to the election. Research conducted by Name it, Change it, shows that when women candidates fight back by calling negative questions what they are, they receive a positive response in the polls.
The Importance of Electing Women of Color
The panelists all agreed that It is important for women of color to run for office because they bring different backgrounds to the table. Jennifer, having worked in the criminal justice system and seeing the shortcomings first-hand, puts a priority on criminal justice reform. The biggest issue in her district is the school-to-prison-pipeline, something Jennifer will fight to change.
Elizabeth brings to the table the issue of undocumented persons who do not have driver’s licenses and are criminalized because of status. The issue of criminal justice reform is also important to her constituents. Women of color who run for office bring these issues to light and fight to resolve them.
Advice on Getting Involved
Jaimie Maniscalco: The easiest way citizens can become involved is to take the time to host and attend events, such as fund-raisers, that support political initiatives. She also recommended calling politicians outside campaign season, when they are more likely to answer.
Elizabeth Guzmán: Women should mobilize their communities to act and combat the current administration. You can be involved by simply going out and talking to your neighbors and coordinating community efforts, such as “get out the vote.”
Chelsea Wilson: Consider running for office yourselves. When Chelsea asked young girls if they wanted to run for office and they responded that it was a boy’s job, Chelsea was inspired to take a chance and run for office.
Jennifer Carroll Foy: Vote. Jennifer won her seat because of 14 votes so people going out to vote matters. The second way to contribute and be involved is to donate to candidates, especially women of color. As women of color need to work even harder to raise funds, donating will help advance women of color’s campaign so that candidates can go and meet voters in person.
Virginia House of Delegates for District 31
On November 7, 2017, Elizabeth Guzman was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for District 31, unseating a Republican incumbent and making history, along with Haya Ayala, by being the first two Latinas elected to state-wide office in Virginia.
Elizabeth Guzman is a public administrator and a social worker who resides in Dale City. Elizabeth and her husband Carlos have four children and live in Ridgefield Estates. Elizabeth works tirelessly as a Court Appointed Service Advocate for CASA CIS to prevent child abuse, a PTO representative for Penn Elementary School, and as a “Cookie Mom” for her youngest daughter’s Girl Scout troop.
Elizabeth came to the United States from Peru as a single mom, looking for a better future for her oldest daughter. She remembers those early years; working three jobs in order to afford a one-bedroom apartment for her and her daughter. Despite graduating with honors from high school in Peru, Elizabeth’s parents could not afford to send her to college. With her love of learning Elizabeth persevered, and enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College, obtaining her degree in Office Administration and Management. Elizabeth also holds a Bachelor’s in Public Safety from Capella University, a Master’s in Public Administration from American University, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California.
Elizabeth is a long time resident of Prince William County, living in the community for more than 15-years. She fell in love with Prince William County because of all of the opportunity the area offered to her as a community leader and homeowner, and her desire to raise her children in a diverse, engaging environment.
Elizabeth has been working in the public sector for 10 years, and currently works as the Division Chief for Administrative Services for the Center for Adult Services for the City of Alexandria. Elizabeth will fight as a strong advocate for the needs of the 31st District, whether that’s legislating for change in Richmond, or attending a community meeting in Catlett.
Jennifer Carroll Foy
Virginia House of Delegaes for District 2
On November 7, 2017, Jennifer Carroll Foy was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for District 2.
Jennifer is a criminal defense attorney where she represents some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable citizens, the indigent and the mentally ill, in a broad range of criminal matters. She is also an adjunct professor of criminal law at Northern Virginia Community College.
Jennifer was born and raised in Petersburg, Virginia. While at Petersburg High School, she earned a full scholarship to Virginia Military Institute and enrolled in the third class of female cadets to attend the historically all-male college.
Shortly after VMI, Jennifer attended Virginia State University for her Master’s degree where she graduated with honors. She was an adjunct professor at the Virginia State University briefly before enrolling at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California on a full academic scholarship.
Jennifer graduated law school with cum laude honors in 2010 and, shortly thereafter, attained a litigation associate position with the Law Office of Ralph Harrison in Los Angeles, California. After a few years with the Law Office of Ralph Harrison, Jennifer returned to Virginia where she opened her own law practice, the Law Office of Jennifer Carroll.
Jennifer then had the privilege of serving the citizens of Richmond, Virginia as a Magistrate. As a Magistrate, she presided over hundreds of hearings. One of her proudest contributions to the community was creating the Foundation for Foster and Orphan Children, a 501(c) 3 organization, formed to provide tutoring, mentoring, and clothing to disadvantaged foster youth. Jennifer was also a foster parent for eight years. She resides in Woodbridge, Virginia with her husband Jeffrey Foy.
Finance Director, Emerge America
Jamie Lynn Maniscalco is the Finance Director for Emerge America and a fierce feminist dedicated to electing democratic women. Jamie began her political career as a Field Organizer for President Obama’s 2012 campaign in North Carolina and served the Presidential Inaugural Committee for the National Day of Service. Her path in political fundraising began at Organizing for Action. Through her time at OFA, Jamie was approached to join Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign as Call Time Manager and was promoted to D.C. Finance Director during her time with the campaign.
In 2014 Jamie worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the Mid-Atlantic Region where she raised PAC & individual dollars. In 2015, Jamie joined Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Leadership PAC, Common Good VA, where she advised & raised money for seven state senate races. She was an integral part of the small team that raised over $18 million dollars for state senate races in Virginia. Most recently, Jamie was the Finance Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia during the 2016 election where she raised $1.7 million, making VA the only self-funded democratic state party that year.
Jamie is a native of Long Island, New York, spent a lot of time in North Carolina, and now resides in Washington, DC. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science & a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from East Carolina University. Jamie is a on the Board of Virginia’s List, a member of the Women’s Information Network (WIN) in DC & a recipient of the WIN Young Women of Achievement Award in Politics and Campaigns.
Chair, She Should Run Frontrunners
In 2014, Chelsea moved from her home in Oklahoma to work on federal Indian policy at the national level. Since then, she increasingly focused her attention to Native American business, specifically tribal efforts in federal contracting. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and she currently works in business development for All Native Group, a contracting division owned by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Prior to working at All Native Group, she was the Legislative Director for the Native American Contractors Association.
Chelsea values diversity, empathy, humor and teamwork, both in her professional and personal life. More than anything, Chelsea values results. Her leadership style inspires friendly competition and a strong sense of community in the teams she belongs to, which has proven to ignite her colleagues into action.
Chelsea is dedicated to progressive organizations and causes. She was a fellow in the 2016 New Leaders Council (NLC) DC Institute and currently serves as Finance Chair for the 2018 NLC DC Executive Board. Chelsea is also deeply committed to She Should Run, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering more women and girls to run for public office. She currently serves as the Chair of She Should Run’s Frontrunners, a group of young professional women living in Washington, D.C. who are dedicated to breaking down barriers precluding women from running for public office.