Deborah Ross—former state legislator and U.S. Senate candidate—discussed the role of gender in politics during a talk Tuesday evening.
Sponsored by the Public Policy Studies Majors Union and moderated by PPSMU President Lisa Guraya, a junior, the talk attracted a crowd of about 40 students. Guraya said that PPSMU wanted to bring someone with a perspective on local and state politics.
Prompted about the gender dynamics in politics, Ross said it was an advantage for her to be the only woman running in the primary because more primary voters are women. Besides the targeted ads from her Republican opponent Sen. Richard Burr during the general election, Ross said she did not face gender discrimination from the public or media.
“It’s not about me. It's not about me feeling sorry for myself,” Ross said of how she dealt with negative ads during her failed campaign.
Senior Nicole Kozlak found Ross' comments on the role of gender in politics insightful.
“I found it interesting how she thought that maybe it’s almost a self-fulfilled prophecy that women are afraid to ask for campaign money,” she said. “I don’t know how I feel about that yet because I’m not in the real world where I need to raise money, but I think that that was a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought about before.”
Although Ross said she would watch the negative ads at least once to know what was happening, she would quickly go back to continue what she was doing—raising money, meeting people around the state and taking questions from the public.
“I thought it would be really interesting to hear from a female politician who got really far in a race,” said sophomore Miriam Levitin. “It’s really inspiring to hear from a woman who took the initiative to do that, and I think it’s important to look for ways to have hope in a time when it feels like people like you and the issues you care about aren’t being represented.”
Ross told the group that she came to Washington, D.C. as the “data geek” for an environmental organization upon graduation from Brown University.
After being told numerous times by peers, colleagues and teachers that she needed to go to law school, she attended the University of North Carolina School of Law and graduated in 1990. Eventually, she served as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
She told the audience about the “Three P Theory” to get to power—personality, position in one’s respective field and proximity to powerful people. Ross said it is rare for these three things to all line up at the same time, but she was lucky enough to have them align for her.
“It was really encouraging to hear how she approached her campaign—starting really grassroots, collecting money from those closest to you and then expanding out,” Kozlak said. “I always assumed it was a really daunting task to pursue public office, but she made it seem really achievable for almost anyone, so that was inspiring.”
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Ross's advice to young people was to find one or two issues or groups to stick to for a long time instead of picking an issue that is popular at any given time.
“There is not one thing you should do right now beside paying attention and staying involved,” Ross said. “I don’t care what your political affiliation is, stay woke.”