Women candidates reflect on first-time political experience

  • Smith Democrats president Dana Chen, Jo Comerford and Tahirah Amatul-Wadud listen at a panel on women and the 2018 election on Sunday night at Smith College.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, Democratic nominee for the 1st Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, speaks at Smith College on Sunday night at a panel on women and the 2018 election. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

Staff Writer
Published: 10/15/2018 12:02:07 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The primary elections have passed, and regardless of each candidate’s results, Jo Comferford, Lindsay Sabadosa and Tahirah Amatul-Wadud all say that their work has just begun.

On Sunday night, the three women, who ran for legislative and congressional seats in September’s primary election, spoke on their experiences, as women candidates and as first-time candidates, in a panel discussion held at Smith College.

The recent election cycle saw Comerford secure her spot as Democratic nominee for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District in the state Senate. Sabadosa became the Democratic nominee for the 1st Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House, while Amatul-Wadud was unsuccessful in her challenge to incumbent Richard Neal for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District.

The audience in Graham Hall consisted primarily of local supporters of the three candidates, as well as Smith students, who had the opportunity to converse with the candidates in a question-and-answer portion of the discussion.

Prior to the panel, Amatul-Wadud told the Gazette that the event would provide her with a platform to speak in-depth about her election experience after coming up short against Neal. 

Despite losing the election, Amatul-Wadud said she does not view the overall experience as a loss, but instead looks at the election cycle as “a community endeavor” resulting in “victories that were non-electoral.”

“I don’t personalize the victories or the setbacks,” Amatul-Wadud said, adding that the primary loss will not dissuade her from remaining a part of community efforts.

“At this point I have made a promise and a trust that I will care for our community, and I will engage with our community,” she later added. “What that looks like, I don’t know. But we’re not turning back, and we’re going to do it.”

Speaking on her own race, Comerford acknowledged the significance of running for a seat that had never been occupied by a woman, adding that having women candidates introduced fresh perspectives to conversations surrounding issues that had previously been dominated by male voices.

“A lot of the conversations that we had in local communities in debates were really, I think, deepened because there was a greater diversity of voices at the table,” Comerford said. 

Sabadosa said she has noticed a positive shift in how women candidates present themselves on the campaign trail.

“I’m excited about this new movement of women who say, ‘I’m going to be me,’” she said.

Sabadosa hopes to provide fuel for this movement; she added that she wanted not only to share her election experience at the panel, but to inspire students in the audience to run for office or become more closely involved in politics themselves.

The discussion also highlighted issues such as voter mobilization and keeping constituents motivated even after the election has been won. 

“I went back a lot to, the number of people who pay attention to politics is really small,” Sabadosa said. “The number of people we want to show up and vote is really large. We want to focus on those people.”

Comerford stressed the importance of the upcoming November elections, noting that they may be “the most consequential (midterm elections) in (her) lifetime.”

Amatul-Wadud said that she has seen “great strides” in the local political scene, but emphasized that it is not enough to simply vote and then celebrate a candidate’s victory.

“We protect and preserve, and fight like our lives depend on it to preserve our wins,” she said.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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