- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018
- Women are serving in larger numbers in American politics and government today than ever before.
- Here are some young rising stars in government.
Women are serving in larger numbers in American politics and government today than ever before.
A record number of women will serve in Congress next year after a surge of female candidates ran for office in this year’s midterm elections. And the House’s freshman class will be the most diverse in history.
But women are also making strides in local and state government – in both elected and non-elected offices.
Here are a handful of the most influential young women in American government, according to Apolitical’s 100 most influential young people in government around the world.
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist from the Bronx and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
- Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Bronxite Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the world when the political novice and Democratic Socialist defeated Rep. Joe Crowley, one of the most powerful and entrenched Democrats in Congress, in the New York primary last June.
In November, the 29-year-old Latina became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on a deeply progressive platform that included supporting single-payer healthcare, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and introducing a Green New Deal for the environment – while rejecting corporate donations to her grassroots-powered effort.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican and the second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik is, at 30, the second-youngest woman ever elected to Congress (after Ocasio-Cortez). During her four years in the House, Stefanik has voted to loosen gun control, repeal Obamacare, and expand federal Pell grants for low-income students. She also leads candidate recruitment for the National Republican Campaign Committee and has voiced frustration about the GOP’s small – and shrinking – number of women in Congress.
“I will continue speaking out about the crisis level of GOP women in Congress & will try to lead and change that by supporting strong GOP women candidates through my leadership PAC,” she tweeted this week.
After facing opposition to her efforts to diversify the Republican caucus from male colleagues, Stefanik responded that she “wasn’t asking permission” to make change.
A Harvard graduate, Stefanik got her start in politics in President George W. Bush’s White House and later worked for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Anna Valencia, Chicago’s city clerk.
Anna Valencia was appointed Chicago’s city clerk in Dec. 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The 33-year-old runs an operation that serves 1.2 million Chicagoans and works to make government services more accessible to residents, championing the city’s effort to provide a municipal ID card to streamline access. She’s also advocated for more gender and racial diversity in government and politics.
The first in her family to graduate from college, Valencia previously served as Emanuel’s director of legislative counsel and government affairs (the second woman in Chicago’s history to serve in that role) and ran US Sen. Dick Durbin’s 2014 campaign.
Beth Fukumoto, a Republican-turned-Democrat in the Hawaii state house.
Hawaii State Rep. Beth Fukumoto attracted national attention last year when she announced that she was leaving the Republican Party after she was ousted from her leadership position in the GOP for taking part in Hawaii’s anti-Trump Women’s March.
The legislator cited “elements of both racism and sexism” in the party’s decision-making process and said she “just didn’t see a hope for change” in a party that she viewed as increasingly out of touch with the Democratic-majority state. Soon afterwards, Fukumoto joined the Democratic Party.
“America will change, and it will be more diverse,” she told TIME last year. “And the Republican Party is going to be in bad shape if it doesn’t change.”
Fukumoto, 35, was first elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 2012 and quickly rose to minority leader in the body. She was defeated in the Democratic primary for a US congressional seat in Honolulu this year.
Drew Zachary, co-founder of The Opportunity Project and senior user experience advisor at the US Census Bureau.
- Screenshot/Heller School
Drew Zachary has for years used data and technology to further economic development in underserved urban, rural, and tribal communities.
She previously served as a policy adviser on President Barack Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, where she co-founded the Opportunity Project – which made data accessible for families looking for affordable housing and schools for their kids, for community leaders looking for data on the populations they serve, and for policymakers in need of data to help determine how to distribute resources.
Currently at the Census Bureau, Zachary works on open innovation and human centered design initiatives.
Emily Ianacone, a design strategist in Baltimore looking to improve public safety and quality of life.
Emily Ianacone, a former presidential innovation fellow, is a design strategist in Baltimore City’s Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Office of Innovation.
The small office, founded in 2017 and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, is tasked with finding new ways to improve city services and quality of life. As part of the office’s effort to improve public safety, Ianacone conducted interviews with police officers and community members and held workshops with kids to figure out how the city can recruit and retain new police officers.
“By including the people you’re solving problems with and designing solutions for the design process, government services will ultimately be more equitable, more accessible, more user-friendly and more effective,” Ianacone told her alma mater, Maryland Institute College of Art.
Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in the Trump administration.
Mary Elizabeth Taylor, 29, joined the Trump administration in the White House legislative affairs unit and later served as a chief aide in charge of presidential nominations. In the latter role, she helped with the selection of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and dozens of other nominations.
In October, the former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell became the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, a high-ranking foreign policy post.
Cassandra Levesque, a 19-year-old incoming New Hampshire state legislator.
- Screenshot/Patty Levesque on YouTube
Cassandra Levesque, a 19-year-old Democrat from Barrington, New Hampshire, will become the youngest member of her state’s House of Representatives next year.
With an average membership age of 66, the large New Hampshire legislative body is the oldest of any state legislative chamber in the country, and it was almost 75% male last year.
At 17, Levesque led a campaign in to ban child marriage in her home state, where girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14 were allowed to marry. Last May, the state senate raised the minimum marriage age to 16 in a unanimous vote. Levesque, now a sophomore in college, said she’ll keep pushing to have the age raised to 18.