D.C.’s Bowser Star at Women to Watch

Photograph by Stephanie Green/Bloomberg

Susannah Wellford, president and founder of Running Start, left, and Muriel Bowser, candidate for mayor of Washington, D.C.

Muriel Bowser, winner of the Democratic primary in the Washington mayor’s race, stole the thunder from two U.S. senators last night, but all women in public life were the real winners.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat, were the honorees at the 8th annual Running Start Women to Watch Awards, but it was Bowser who got the rock star treatment, fresh from her primary victory on Tuesday.

Running Start is an organization that encourages young women to pursue elected office through training and mentorship programs. It honored Bowser as a “political rising star” in 2010, and since that time she has returned the favor by speaking to girls in the program.

“Women respond to encouragement,” said Hirono. “The thing that holds us back is the feeling that we don’t have the wherewithal.”

Bowser made a late arrival at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, and was greeted with a raucous standing ovation, requests for selfies and a bouquet of flowers.

She said her experiences with Running Start gave her the confidence she needed.

Bowser, 41, is currently a Democratic member of the  City Council. If elected, she would be the district’s second female mayor. (Sharon Pratt was the first.)

“It shouldn’t be a novelty to be a woman in public office,” said Ayotte, who along with Hirono is one of seven women on the Armed Services Committee, a traditional den of testosterone.

“If we go back to 1992, that year we had a historic number of three women in the Senate, so it’s huge progress to see 20 of us,” said Ayotte. “When it came to problems like the government shutdown, it really was the women working together to say ‘okay guys, it’s time that we act like adults and get this done.'”

“I’m glad we have 20, but let’s face it, we need many more.”

“When women come together, we get things done,” said Hirono. “There have only been 44 women elected to the U.S. Senate, and 20 are serving right now. That means that more women are getting into the elected pipeline.”

Running Start also saluted Jana Barresi, director of federal government relations for Walmart, Jennifer Hunt, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, and Bettina Inclan, director of strategic initiatives and coalitions for the National Republican Congressional Committee.


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