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New Hampshire’s all-female delegation: We never do it alone

  • Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter talks to Joseph B. Reilly (left), President and CEO of Centrix Bank, as Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock (right) motions for others to join in a group picture after the reoundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by ;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter talks to Joseph B. Reilly (left), President and CEO of Centrix Bank, as Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock (right) motions for others to join in a group picture after the reoundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by ; December 7, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Stephanie St. Cyr of New Hampshire's YWCA shows off a t-shirt for sale as a fundraiser for the YWCA after a roundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Stephanie St. Cyr of New Hampshire's YWCA shows off a t-shirt for sale as a fundraiser for the YWCA after a roundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce; December 7, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock; December 7, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock; December 7, 2012.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter talks to Joseph B. Reilly (left), President and CEO of Centrix Bank, as Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock (right) motions for others to join in a group picture after the reoundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by ;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Stephanie St. Cyr of New Hampshire's YWCA shows off a t-shirt for sale as a fundraiser for the YWCA after a roundtable discussion with NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics hosted by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • NH Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, Representative-elect Annie Kuster, Representative-elect Carol Shea Porter, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen prepare to pose for pictures after they participated in a roundtable discussion at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics moderated by Manchester's Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Robin A. Comstock;  December 7, 2012.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

There has been lots of scuttlebutt about U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s aspirations for higher office, but her 8-year-old daughter, Kate, isn’t on board. Such a move could undermine her own ambitions.

“She came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I don’t want you to run for president,’ ” Ayotte said yesterday at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester at a forum featuring and celebrating New Hampshire’s all-female congressional delegation and governor’s office.

“I said, ‘Kate, that’s not going to happen. Why are you asking me this?’ ” Ayotte continued. “She said, ‘You know what, Mom? Because I want to be the first woman president.’ ”

There will be a female president in our lifetime, the members of the history-making group – Ayotte, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Reps.-Elect Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster and Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, said yesterday. “If it isn’t your daughter, it might be mine,” Hassan said. “Or one of the many girls who comes up to me and says, ‘I want to be president.’ ”

The event, a breakfast hosted by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and moderated by its president, Robin Comstock, allowed the five to discuss what helped them succeed, what their legislative priorities are and where women are still at a disadvantage.

“I find myself going back to the forefathers about liberty and justice for all,” said Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat who recently unseated Charlie Bass, a Peterborough Republican. “They weren’t thinking about us at the time,” she said.

“There was a tremendous gender gap in my election,” Kuster said.

At the heart of their political success, the women said, was the support they’ve received from their families, many of whom were in the audience.

Shea-Porter, a Rochester Democrat who just won the 1st District seat back from Frank Guinta of Manchester, said that when she visited her ailing mother last year, worried that the energy expended running for office would take away from their time together.

“She just looked at me and said, ‘You better run,’ ” Shea-Porter said. “And that’s the kind of support you get from people in your family that lifts you up each rung of the ladder.”

Her teenagers were pretty easygoing about the whole thing.

“I told my daughter, she looked at me and she said, ‘Just don’t embarrass us,’ ” Shea-Porter said.

The officials, though, started their careers at a time when there was a lot less flexibility for working women. Shaheen recalled struggling to find child care and now watches her own daughters dealing with the same challenges.

Ayotte, who was about six months pregnant when she was appointed attorney general, said she relies heavily on family members to help with her two children. But, Ayotte said and the other women affirmed, the challenges she faces are the same as many other families.

Kuster credited Rath, Young & Pignatelli – where she practiced law and lobbied for years – with letting her work four days a week. Still, she had to take calls at home now and then.

“At one point I had to lock myself in a closet on a conference call,” Kuster said. “The kids were out playing and the client asked me, ‘Are there children there?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, our office is next to a school,’ which was true.”

But just as Kuster was the driver on her mother’s 1980 congressional campaign, her son, Zach, was her own driver this year.

And, of course, there were the husbands.

When Hassan said she was first asked to run for the New Hampshire Senate, she said she had about 24 hours to make up her mind and was on the fence. She had two kids – one with significant physical disabilities – and a law practice, after all.

“It was my husband who said, ‘Hey, you know, you’d be really good at this; We’ll make it work,’ ” Hassan said. “And in fact, we made it work.”

Ayotte had a similar experience. When she left the attorney general’s office, her family dropped to one income. She said she never would have run for the Senate if her husband, Joe, hadn’t encouraged her.

“It does take someone in your life to say, ‘Yes, you could do that.’ And you could be that for someone,” Ayotte said.

Shaheen said more women need to be asked to run for office.

“We’re going to get women elected to office when women run for office,” Shaheen said. “We have thousands of positions for city council, for school boards, for municipal government that go unfilled every year because people don’t run for them.”

There are some issues that they believe they’ll bring a woman’s touch to, the officials said yesterday. Kuster, for example, said she wants to see violence against women addressed more effectively.

Both Ayotte and Shaheen said lowering the nation’s $16.2 trillion debt is one of their top priorities.

But for all the diversity of experience, they said they approach their jobs with the same goals a man would.

“We want to do the best we can for the state of New Hampshire and the country,” Shea-Porter said. “And that’s what men want to do, too, when they take office.”

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors )

Congratulations to the ladies. History has been made. Your leadership inspires me.

I didn't think it was possible, but reporter Molly Connors managed to pull off the improbable - writing an article that combines feminist tripe along with peddling sexual stereotypes more suited for 1952 America. Frankly, most folks in this state don't give a hoot whether their congressional delegation is all male, all female or all green-skin. The people simply want representatives who will best serve the need of New Hampshire and our county. However, once again, we see an out of touch academia and newspaper "celebrating" feminist tripe by trying to make us believe that we still live in 1952 America and that a female officeholder is an anomaly rather than an becoming an all too common occurrence. But what is ironic about this article and the so-called celebration is that while St. Anselm claims to be celebrating the fact that woman are being elected to public office, it sees no trouble in encouraging sexist questions of our all-female congressional delegation. For instance, why does it seem that every time we have a female candidate or office holder one of the first questions out of the mouths of reporters and even those from an "enlightened" academic elite is the question of how one's children will react to mom's new job as a congressperson or senator? I guarantee you if the tables were turned and the candidate or office holder were male, the topic of the "little ones" would not make the top ten list of questions. So shame on St. Anselm, Ms. Connors and this newspaper for continuing to pander feminist tripe and sexual stereotypes in a 21st century America.

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