A powerful Democratic group is highlighting several women in local politics as rising stars

March 1, 2018

Business Insider: A powerful Democratic group is highlighting several women in local politics as rising stars in the party

By Eliza Relman

EMILY's List, the Democratic political group, has nominated six women who hold state and local offices for its annual Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.

The nominees will gain exposure to the group's vast fundraising network and receive strategic advice from its consultants.

The list of nominees is one to watch in the coming years.

EMILY's List, the political group that supports pro-choice, Democratic women running for office — and one of the most powerful forces in the party, has nominated six women in state and local office for its annual Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.

The lawmakers hail from across the US — from Washington state to Boston, and they embody a diverse array of young, ambitious talent in a year when the Democratic Party has seen an unprecedented surge in women running for office.

“With near-constant attacks on our values coming at every level of government, it could not be more important to have champions working on behalf of women and families,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, said in a statement. “These elected officials have demonstrated their commitment to their states and communities by advocating progressive causes like paid family leave, access to reproductive health care options, and equal pay.”

The nominees will benefit from the added national exposure and access to EMILY's List donors and consultants.

“Our advisors become very personally invested in the success of these women,” Geri Prado, the group's senior director of state and local campaigns, told Business Insider.

Some of previous recipients of the award have since embarked on higher-profile political careers, including Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House Minority Leader now running governor, and Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley, who's running for congress.

The winner of this year's award will be announced in April.


Here are the nominees:


Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is the first black woman to lead the second-largest prosecutor's office in the country and Prado called her a “formidable force” on criminal justice issues in Illinois.

Foxx “walks in a room and people take notice,” Prado said.


Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu grew up as the daughter of two Taiwanese immigrants in Chicago, made it to Harvard for college, moved back home to care for her sick mother, and then returned to Boston at 24 to attend Harvard Law School, where she was Sen. Elizabeth Warren's student and, later, her campaign aide.

Wu is a particularly outspoken advocate for women's rights in the workplace. In a November op-ed, Wu used her own story to call for federal legislation to help families with child care.

“Every morning, I take the double stroller on the subway, drop Blaise off at City Hall's on-site childcare center, and bring Cass with me to meetings and events,” Wu wrote. “Sometimes I'm the only one standing during a discussion, bouncing Cass to sleep.”


Colorado state Rep. Faith Winter

A strong advocate for mental health care and women's rights, Colorado state representative Faith Winter recently teamed up with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to advocate for the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a federal paid family leave proposal reintroduced by Gillibrand last year.

“There are many bright spots, but when you go into that state, the first thing people say is, 'have you talked to Faith Winter?'” Prado said. “She is a huge mentor for women.”

Winter recently accused fellow Democratic Rep. Steve Lebsock of propositioning her and making lewd comments at a party in 2016. Nearly a dozen women have since come forward to allege that Lebsock has harassed them as well.


Washington State Representative Kristine Reeves

Kristine Reeves, a Washington state representative, is best known for her work on veterans issues. Her grandfather, who was a Tuskegee airman, helped inspire that passion. Reeves, who faced significant adversity as a child growing up in poverty, calls herself “a product of the American Dream.”

“As the daughter of a single mother, I grew up in and out of foster care. I was homeless and often hungry,” Reeves said during a speech on the floor of the US House on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “So I have known poverty. But I have also known hope.”


Tucson City Councilor Regina Romero

A 10-year veteran of the Tucson City Council, Regina Romero has helped shepherd economic development initiatives and worked closely with the Latino immigrant community. The daughter of immigrants herself, Romero was the first Latina elected to the council.

Prado says that there is a lot of national focus on Phoenix, but that Tucson is in a strategically important part of the state.


Missouri state representative Cora Faith Walker

State Rep. Cora Faith Walker is a former health care lawyer who has advocated for early childhood education and criminal-justice reform in Missouri.

Prado called Walker a “stalwart” in a state that's trended more conservative in recent years.

In 2016, Walker accused a fellow state lawmaker of raping her. Walker notified the Missouri House Speaker of the alleged sexual assault, which the alleged perpetrator, Steven Roberts, Jr.. denied.