BY ANNA KANE ’20
On March 4, New York congressional candidate Emily Martz ’94 visited Mount Holyoke to meet current students and discuss her path to a political career. Martz was hosted by the Mount Holyoke College Democrats and addressed a dozen students in Skinner room 202 in an informal meeting.
Martz is a resident of Saranac Lake in upstate New York and announced her candidacy in July 2017. She is one of eight democrats running for the primaries in New York State’s 21st congressional district. After the 2016 presidential election, Martz said she had decided her commitment to her community and background in policy and economics set her apart from other Congressional candidates in her district.
“I just got so frustrated that the priorities in our country are off, and the only way to change that is to go to Congress myself,” she said.
Martz told students that she began her campaign with what she called a “listening tour” of her district to get a sense of what issues matter to people across party lines. As a democrat, she is careful to paint issues in a light favorable to all of her prospective constituents, but remains firm in her beliefs. She discusses environmental issues from an economic perspective as a way of keeping jobs local. She supports veterans and the military, but believes government spending should be focused more on soldiers than facilities. Martz isn’t vocal about her views on gun control while campaigning, but when the issue is brought up she doesn’t shy away from it. She plans to hold the National Rifle Association accountable for their financial ties to Congress and sends out emails to her supporters advocating for gun control in the wake of shootings.
“It’s a tricky situation. I don’t want to take guns away, but we have to have discussions of a better system. We need to get the NRA out of the halls of Congress. And we don’t have to arm teachers — that’s just giving up on ourselves,” she told students.
“I admire Emily’s ability to appeal to democrats and republicans without changing her beliefs pertaining to important issues. She has an ability to identify what is specifically important to different people and address those truths. Often politicians appear wishy-washy and manipulative,” said Maddie Desfosses ’21. “Emily states her true beliefs no matter who she’s addressing, but speaks to what appeals to that perspective. She is respectful of people’s different political opinions, but also unifies them by bringing diverse communities together on the same issue.”
Martz majored in history and minored in political science at Mount Holyoke College. She was Honor Code president, ran cross country and was a glee club member and secretary, according to her LinkedIn profile. She attributes much of the success of her campaign to the vast network of 37,000 Mount Holyoke alums, many of whom have offered her support and financial resources.
After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1994, Martz began a career in financial services and was a professor at the University of Delaware. She also served as deputy director of Adirondack North Country Association, an economic development organization that works to build local economies across the North Country. She resigned upon her decision to run for office.
Martz said after she announced her candidacy she was repeatedly asked who had “pushed” her to run. “Usually women are pushed to do it,” she said. “But I went to Mount Holyoke. We are a room full of women who are speaking up and speaking out.” She decided to run for office of her own accord.
Martz has a passion for “fixing the growing gap of economic opportunity, particularly in rural areas like mine. I have the necessary economic development expertise, gained during a career of more than 20 years, that enables me to build partnerships with people regardless of background or political party. We need this sort of independent thinking and economic development expertise to set the country on a better path,” she wrote in a blog post for Mount Holyoke’s Alumnae Association.
The 21st congressional district in New York State struggles economically and is eager for a resurgence of jobs, according to Martz. One hurdle she faces is being a democratic candidate in a county that voted for Donald Trump. She is a firm believer that the issues rural areas face cannot simply be solved the same way they would in urban areas, especially with issues like opioid addiction and job creation. Solutions need to involve the community, she said.
Martz encouraged students to support local campaigns across the country by phone banking, writing endorsements in letters to the editor, knocking on doors and donating money if able.
“I want to invest in our biggest asset — people,” she said. “Everything in Washington is working against that. We need more women in government. We have that compassion, and it’s a democratic value.”
“As more and more women are stepping up to run for office all across this country, it was an honor to meet Emily Martz,” said Liz Brown ’20, “a Mount Holyoke woman who is paving the way for all of us.”