This is the first in a series on women running for office in 2018. According to the Center for American Women In Politics, more than 430 women are running for Congress in 2018. If you’re running, or know someone who is, please tell us about it.
Kendra Fershee is a mom, holding down a job as a law professor while juggling two busy schedules for her kids. Fershee is a Democrat running for a Congress in West Virginia. She told News & Guts, “I’m the only woman in my race, running in a deep red district (WV-01) held by a Republican incumbent. I’m not a politician, but I think I represent the real change my district is ready for.”
News and Guts: Why did you decide to run?
Kendra Fershee: I decided to run because we need more women, more working parents, and more non-millionaires in Congress, particularly in West Virginia, where our elected officials are pretty out of touch with their constituents. I’d also like to serve because people in West Virginia are hurting badly, and I have some ideas that would help.
NG: What do you think makes you different from other candidates?
KF: I think I understand better because I live it every day, what it’s like to be a working parent with a couple of kids in public school, to juggle work and choir concerts and policy discussions and snow days (like today!) and doctor’s appointments, and on and on. People are working so hard just to stay afloat and keep their kids safe and fed and we need more people in Congress who understand that reality and are willing to work with whomever it takes to help improve the lives of the people who live here.
NG: Why do you think more women in Congress matters?
KF: Because the culture needs to change in Congress. It’s not that women are magical creatures who are somehow going to change everything for the better, but we can bring a different perspective and a different approach to problem-solving. Women are more than half of the population, yet our representatives have been more than 80-100% men since we founded our government. The untapped talent pool of women legislators is huge and it’s time to start seeing what we women can really do.
Just an anecdote to show why we need more women and what women candidates encounter that might be different from what men encounter on the campaign trail. Last week, I received an email from a supporter who wanted to share some “friendly” advice with me. He suggested that I drop out of the race and run for something else (school board was his suggestion) because (in part, he had a couple of other reasons that had to do with me not being wealthy like my opponent) I’m a woman and, in his words, “West Virginians don’t vote for women.” Well, I think he’s wrong, and I’m working hard to prove it!
NG: What issues are you running on that matter the most to you?
KF: Fighting for the freedom of West Virginians to stay home. People are stampeding out of the state to seek better opportunities for their families and they’re dying of drug addiction (we have twice the rate of drug overdose deaths than any other state). But living free in a free country takes a team effort. You can’t live free without healthcare, you can’t live free without a good job, and you can’t live free without thriving schools. I think the first step to solving a lot of these problems is legalizing medical marijuana, as you can see in my video.
NG: Are you prepared for a hard campaign?
KF: It’s going to be an uphill battle for sure. This district has been held by a Republican since the Tea Party wave in 2010, and firmly at that. But West Virginians aren’t particularly hung up on a party; they want their legislators to work for them. And they just see things getting worse and worse. Social media is a big part of my outreach. Our media markets are far-flung and small in the district, so social media is a good start, but we’re also raising money for cable tv, radio, and, most importantly, a robust ground game. We’ve got a lot of volunteers lined to help get the word out about me by knocking on doors, calling folks, and sharing info on social media. We’re getting back to basics, just like so many candidates did in Virginia because women are ready to work for change!
NG: Do you know your Democratic competitors?
KR: Yes – there is one other Democrat in the race for sure, and another who has announced that he’s running, but not yet declared officially. I’ve met with both of them and they are both very nice men with a lot to offer this district. We have all pledged to stick to the issues on the campaign trail.
NG: How are you fundraising? Are you behind or ahead of other candidates.
KF: My district is a long shot, so I’m not getting support from national organizations, so it’s pretty much me calling people. I also don’t have personal money I can put into the race, so I’m working hard raising money, one friend at a time! My opponent is quite wealthy, and as of the last filing, had contributed $59k of his own money to the race.
NG: Do you feel you are running because of Donald Trump?
KF: I was motivated to run because I think the election of Trump indicated how badly people want change. Electing me would be a big change from what we’ve had, not just because I’d be the first woman ever to represent this district, but because I’d also be the first working parent and teacher to represent the district.
West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District is currently held by Republican David McKinley, who was elected to the seat in 2010.