Washington, DC –Young progressive women running for office in battleground states joined People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund today for a National Press Club discussion about the impact of the #MeToo movement on the 2018 midterms, and the future of politics under a president with a record of harming women.
Rachel Crooks, candidate for Ohio State House District 88 who was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump, joined Anna Eskamani, candidate for Florida State House District 47, Myya Jones, candidate for Michigan State House District 4, and Katie Muth, candidate for Pennsylvania State House District 44 for a discussion moderated by People for the American Way’s Political Director Lizet Ocampo.
“We have a sexual predator in the White House, and that is not OK,” said Rachel Crooks, who spoke about being assaulted by Trump when she was 22-year old employee at a real estate company in Trump Tower. “For too long, I was silent and ashamed about what happened. But as I heard more women speak up, I realized I wasn’t alone. Watching powerful men like Trump not being held accountable, it made me realize women need to run and win to change this culture. ”
The panelists shared personal stories about their experience with sexual harassment and sexual assault, and about how those experiences, in addition to the #MeToo movement and the 2017 Women’s March, influenced their decisions to run for office. They also discussed more recent sexist comments like Katie Muth’s opponent calling her “that girl,” of Anna Eskamani’s opponents calling her “immature,” of people giving Rachel Crooks unsolicited advice on her clothing and of donors and establishment men touching women without asking.
“Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Generations of survivors have been forced to adapt, but not anymore,” said Anna Eskamani. “I can remember far too many occurrences where donors and elected officials have touched me inappropriately. This doesn’t just influence my campaign, it influences the way I would legislate in Florida when I win. It’s time for change.”
“Even before Trump was elected, I knew as a survivor that we needed more women, and especially women of color, running for office,” said Myya Jones. “I have long spoken out about the intertwined issues of racial violence and sexual assault — of the tragedy of black and brown people being murdered, and about the rampant sexual assault problem we have in America. But with Trump in the White House, it’s even more important for black women to step up and run for office and for people to support us.”
“A lot of people told me that I shouldn’t talk about being a rape survivor while running for office,” said Katie Muth. “For too long, we survivors have been shamed into silence. But Donald Trump’s campaign brought up all of this trauma we had tried to suppress, and we realized we need to speak out instead of being silent.”
“In the past couple of years we have witnessed a wave of young progressive women becoming candidates and transforming our politics — in much the same way that the #MeToo movement has transformed public conversations about sexual harassment and assault and the kinds of barriers that they, and a culture that tolerates them, create for women. That is real change, and we’re counting on more of it from the candidates who are here today and the dozens more our Next Up Victory Fund is supporting this year,” said People For the American Way President Michael Keegan.
“We want to help candidates win who look like America and this is the best of America right here.” said Lizet Ocampo in closing.
People For the American Way’s Next Up Victory Fund helps young progressive candidates age 40 and under win races for state and local offices across the country. The goal of Next Up is to build a deep bench of progressive candidates well positioned to control state legislatures, win statewide and run for federal offices in the years and decades to come. We’re committed to winning the elections that will lead to progressive outcomes that reflect our true American values and the American Way.
People For the American Way Action Fund is a political organization connected to People For the American Way, a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.