A Love Letter to the Women Running for Local Office

Regardless of the election outcome, your decision to run will have a huge impact on the women around you—especially young women and girls.

A polling location in Delaware County, Pa., on Nov. 2, 2021. (Pete Bannan / MediaNews Group / Daily Times via Getty Images)

Ahead of Election Day on Nov. 7, I’m reflecting on the women on the ballot in our local elections, as well as my mom’s own run for political office in 2010 when I was 8. I often point to this moment as my first taste of politics. Although my young self found this taste repulsive, today I reminisce about this time and the impact my mom’s run had on my own political journey. Although she lost her election, her campaign taught me what it means to care about your community and helped make me the woman I am today—about to graduate from college and make my way into law and public service. My mom set an example for me, and for all young girls who watched her campaign. 

I share this today in honor of all the women running for office: Regardless of the election outcome, the impact of your decision to run on the women around you will still be positive. I am grateful you decided to step up—just like my mom. 

We’re from rural Ohio, a small village called Mechanicsburg 45 minutes west of Columbus. My mom decided to run for county commissioner because she cared about the way our community worked. She cared about adding wind turbines to our county for renewable energy. She was passionate about local food. She took classes to learn about starting a community garden at our local public school on many Tuesday nights in Columbus. She started several farmer’s markets to promote access to local and fresh food. She also cared about economic growth and increasing economic development in our county. 

Still, she ran against an incumbent whose differing party had held the position since the 1970s. Everyone told her she would need to brand herself as neutral to have a chance. Instead, she ran as who she was. My mom took our family to countless fish fries, pancake breakfasts and parades on the campaign trail and brought me along to knock doors and drop literature. At the time, I didn’t connect the dots about how formative this time was for my own political interests. I was just a grumpy girl in the back seat of my mom’s car, sulking and saying one afternoon, “This campaign is ruining my life.” 

Now that I’m older, I’m so grateful my mom set an example and planted those seeds in her daughter. When you care about your community, and if things aren’t going the way you want them to, you work to make a change. You can run for office. She got 36 percent of the vote—which was 11 percent higher than the candidate of her same party who was running for national Congress. Her passion appealed to voters across party lines. 

Everyone told her she would need to brand herself as neutral to have a chance. Instead, she ran as who she was.

I’m about to graduate college and I’m applying for a Fulbright scholarship. I want to study women’s political representation across the European Union next year. After, I plan to attend law school and practice civil rights law to fight discrimination in voting rights. 

I’m an advocate for same-day voter registration, which we do not currently have in Ohio. Over 20 states across the U.S. already practice it, and it’s a great option for people wanting to vote without updating their address or registering in advance. It ensures that potential voters who were unknowingly purged from the voter rolls can still fulfill their civic duty. It also helps college students vote; if their absentee ballot from their home county or state does not arrive by Election Day, they can re-register with their campus address and still have a say in issues. 

It is important to not only have access to the ballot box but to also feel safe when voting. I’ve researched voter intimidation through Princeton’s Bridging Divides Initiative and helped monitor the rise in political violence and ballot box intimidation across the country. 

Everyone who wants to vote should be able to, in a fair and constitutional way. In Ohio in 2020, our legislature redrew the voting maps in accordance with our census data. The Ohio supreme court rejected the maps three times due to blatant gerrymandering. The state stalled long enough in fixing them that we have already voted with these unconstitutional maps and will continue doing so through 2024. This should not be the case—which is why I’m an advocate for fairly drawn districts by a nonpartisan body.

As young women, it is our duty to be politically active and vote in every election. I am currently a fellow with IGNITE, a young women’s political empowerment organization that trains and supports young women as we engage in politics. Part of my work with this organization has included registering voters in Ohio (ahead of a crucial election where abortion is on the ballot), and I’m looking forward to continuing to get young people involved ahead of the 2024 election. Ultimately, I’d like to run for political office myself. 

Millennials and my fellow Gen Z will comprise a majority of eligible voters by 2028, making us a key demographic to involve in the electorate. In Ohio specifically, we have a vote on reproductive justice on the ballot this year that could codify abortion access across the state. I feel young women are going to have our voices heard at the ballot box this year. 

In the U.S., we will not have gender parity in Congress for 118 years, if we continue at the current rate. When we ask young women to run for office, we ask them to make sacrifices and break through barriers. Research shows there is still bias against women in political life, but if we don’t run and win, we can’t change the issues that matter. 

Running and winning starts with running and losing. What my mom did in 2010 mattered a lot. What women do to set an example to other women matters hugely today, regardless of the outcome.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Cameron Tiefenthaler is a senior at Miami University in Ohio.