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One year later, NH's women aren't just marching; they're running, too

New Hampshire Sunday News

January 20. 2018 7:03PM
Zorana Pringle volunteered for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign for president. Now her 8-year-old son, Alex, is encouraging Pringle to run for office. (ADAM SCHULTZ PHOTO)

First they marched. Then they joined political action groups. Now they’re running for office.

A year after the Women’s March stunned the political world from Washington, D.C., to the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, many Granite State women are taking their activism to a whole new level.

Connie Lane of Concord has been interested in politics since she was a teenager, and has volunteered for numerous campaigns over the years, both on the state level and in national campaigns. But other than an unsuccessful campaign for school board, she never thought about running for office herself.

Lane, 62, a partner at Orr & Reno in Concord, went to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., last year with a group of classmates from the University of Virginia Law School. She still chokes up when she talks about what it felt like to be there.

“It was my first real march,” she said. “It was very moving. It was inspirational.”

“We were there because we were angry and we were not going to put up with it,” she said. “And we wanted to make our voices heard because we were afraid they wouldn’t be.”

The march and the election of Donald Trump has now inspired her to run for statewide office herself, she said. “I just felt like I need to get out there and do more,” she said.

“I’ve been fighting this fight since I was 16 years old, and I just really am tired of it, that we still have to fight,” she said.

A child of Republican parents, Lane remembers a time when the Republican platform had more to offer her than the southern Democrats. She’s fiscally conservative and socially liberal, she said.

This year, Lane was at the women’s rally in Concord on Saturday. When her more conservative friends ask her why she marches, she has an answer: “I march so that my granddaughter, if I have one, won’t ever have to do this.”

“I want her to feel like she’s being treated fairly, that she’s not being harassed or discriminated against in whatever she wants to do in her life.”

Jennifer Alford-Teaster of Sutton is also thinking about running for the State House. She went to the women’s rally in Concord last year with her husband and daughter. And it convinced her it was time to do more.

“I don’t want to be a bystander anymore,” she said. “I need to consider how I can contribute.”

Alford-Teaster grew up on the Seacoast with her single mother “and a grandmother who worked sometimes two jobs,” she said. “We were poor.”

Now she has two master’s degrees and is the geospatial research project director at Dartmouth College. She and her husband own a home and are raising a daughter — “a first-generation middle class kid,” she said.

“We’re in a place now where I say I should give back; I should do something for my community. Because I know what it’s like to struggle,” she said.

When she looks at many elected officials, she doesn’t see her own community represented, she said. “I’m a 40-year-old; I have a mortgage and student loans. I have a child in daycare,” she said. “I just feel like why not me? Why not consider representing my community?”

“I grew up in New Hampshire. I love this state.” And, she said, “I believe in the potential of people and I feel like given the right resources, they can surpass their own expectations.”

Zorana Pringle of Portsmouth has been involved in political campaigns as a volunteer since 2004; she threw her heart and soul into working for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

After the election and the women’s march, she said she started to think about running for office herself. “At a certain point, the question becomes well, if not me, then who?” she said. “I never really thought that I would run, but it’s time to change something. It’s time to at least attempt to change something.”

Her 8-year-old son, Alex, encouraged her, she said. “He said, ‘Mommy, I think you should run for school board to make the schools better,’” she said.

So she’s thinking about it, or maybe city council, a first step toward a state-level campaign someday, she said.

Pringle went to the Women’s March in Washington last year with friends and felt a wide range of emotions. “It felt good and hopeful to be there with so many people. There was very positive energy,” she said. “But it felt also so deeply, deeply sad.”

She still tears up when she talks about it.

Pringle came to the United States from Croatia in 1999; she went to graduate school at the University of New Hampshire, earning a doctorate in psychology. She’s a research scientist for Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Pringle remembers taking a course on the “psychology of gender” in graduate school, “and thinking to myself with an eye-roll that we are beyond this.”

“Now it’s kind of funny and tragic at the same time, that we are very much not beyond this,” she said.

Pringle, now 42, became a citizen at the first opportunity, in 2010. “Without being a citizen, you cannot fully participate in civic life and I always wanted to,” she said.

She always saw America as “a land of opportunity,” she said. “There is this striving to be better and more humane and inclusive, and I wanted that. And I wanted to be part of it.”

“I grew up in Eastern Europe during communism,” she said. “I know the dangers of the far right and I know the dangers of the far left.

“And I know the dangers of not letting people speak and the dangers of not having the press that’s there to stand up.”

Sierran Lucey, 33, of Portsmouth went to the women’s march and rally in Concord last year and was inspired by the speeches and the women and families there.

“It just felt really empowering,” she said. “It felt like people in the community could come together and maybe make a change.”

“I think that it was a moment where we realized how many people kind of felt the same way that we did, and I think that spurred a lot of people all across the country,” Lucey said.

After the 2016 election, Lucey started volunteering for Planned Parenthood. But running for office herself, she said, “always kind of seemed out of reach.”

Lucey attended a training last month in Manchester, organized by Emily’s List, a political action group that supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates, to encourage women to run for state and local office. Now she’s thinking of running for local office. It’s a start, she said.

Lucey works as an academic adviser at Southern New Hampshire University; she also is part of the 2018 class of the New Leaders Council.

It’s not only on the progressive side.

Jeanie Forrester, state GOP chair, said she’s seeing “a lot of enthusiasm” here from women about running for local and state office. And, she said, “We’re getting them younger and younger.”

Lane noted the new cover of Time magazine celebrates women who are running for Congress, dubbing them “the Avengers.”

So does that make Lane an avenger?

First she laughed. But then she remembered the years when scholarships went to male athletes instead of female valedictorians such as herself, when she and other women athletes were called names from the sidelines, and when classmates and professors told her she didn’t belong there because she was “taking up a space for a guy.”

“So in a way, yeah, I feel like I’m avenging,” Lane said.

Lucey hopes more women will run for office from across the political spectrum. “I don’t think women should just be visible in the liberal/progressive side of things,” she said. “I think women need representatives on all sides of the table.”

And Alford-Teaster said there’s room in the tent for women who are conservative and/or Republican. “I think it’s impossible to make any movement and progress without all hands on deck,” she said. “It shouldn’t be an us-against-them discussion. It should be: What do we have to contribute so we make the impact we want to have and our communities deserve?” she said.

Forrester agreed. “It’s everybody working together,” she said. “I think people are tired of the bickering. They really are fed up.”

“We’ve got to get back to more civil discourse.”

The challenge in our current divisive political environment is to find a way to connect across ideological differences, Alford-Teaster said. But, she said, “The only way we’re going to make progress is through conscientious dialogue and reaching towards each other, outwards toward a common goal.”

“This is not a club,” she said. “If your heart is in the right place and your mind is working toward the common good, you should be involved.”

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