Mount Holyoke alumnae run for office

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ’21


The 2018 election cycle has been known for its almost unprecedented number of women running for office at all levels of government. This year, women have appeared on the ballot in record- breaking numbers, according to Time. Several record-breaking women who filed candidacy in races across the country are Mount Holyoke alumnae.

Races featuring Mount Holyoke alumnae range from Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals, where Mary Jane Trapp ’78 seeks a second term as judge, to a race for membership on the Sudbury School Committee, a spot for which Lisa Kouchakdjian ’92 is vying.

Tami Gouveia ’96 is currently running for state representative in the 14th Middlesex District of Massachusetts. For Gouveia, launching a political campaign has been a long time coming, as she has envisioned herself running for public office since she was 19 years old. “I was just really inspired by the things I was learning in my coursework and the things I was involved in as a student,” she said.

Gouveia, who majored in politics with a minor in women’s studies, participated in the Student Government Association throughout her four years at Mount Holyoke, first as a senator, then as secretary and finally as president. She was also a member of the College Democrats for three years, rugby for one year and worked in Dining Services and the politics department.

Gouveia is particularly grateful for how Mount Holyoke’s politics major was structured. “It’s very different than what most students get at the undergrad level for politics because [a politics major is] usually more focused on the nuts and bolts of government, but at Mount Holyoke [the major is] teaching you how to think and how to think about good policy-making,” she said.

Upon graduating from Mount Holyoke, Gouveia pursued a career in public health, earning a master’s of public health and a master’s of social work from Boston University. Her work focused on preventing substance abuse in youth, including founding the Lowell Roundtable on Substance Abuse Prevention. The organization received $1 million in state funding to address the opioid crisis and prevention in the state.

During the night of the 2016 election, Gouveia was in Boston with some friends anticipating what they thought would be the historical election of a woman president, especially an alumna of another women’s college. “I was just so devastated by the results and quite shocked honestly,” Gouveia said. But she soon turned her distress into action when she heard through Facebook about the Women’s March, and decided to pursue an opportunity to be a state chapter leader for Massachusetts.

“I quickly got to work with building my diverse leadership team and making sure we had organizers all across the state,” Gouveia said. She made a particular effort to involve people from all backgrounds in her campaign, noting that women’s movements of the past haven’t been inclusive of women of color or those who identify outside the gender binary.

Gouveia’s work with the Massachusetts chapter sent 10,000 Massachusetts residents to D.C. to march, including 130 people who received scholarships the chapter worked to fundraise. “There were many more people engaged in democracy in a way they hadn’t been before,” Gouveia said, noting this participation was what she was most proud of.

While Gouveia’s work with the Women’s March certainly proved to be exhilarating politically, it was ultimately timing that convinced her to finally run for office. Cory Atkins, the 14th Middlesex district house seat representative, announced she would retire by the end of 2018. Gouveia noted how difficult it is to win a primary against an incumbent in Massachusetts.

“I had a couple hundred volunteers, we were knocking on doors and making phone calls and talking to voters whenever we could,” Gouveia said, “But it is nerve-wracking because you don’t really know what voters are going to decide.”

On Sept. 4, the date of the Massachusetts primary, Gouveia ultimately received 64 percent of the votes throughout the district, winning every precinct. “I ran against two men and I even won the precincts where they lived by 51 percent of the votes,” she said.

Despite her success in the primaries, running a campaign as a single mother of two teenage sons was not easy. “I had a wonderful campaign manager,” she said, “I had to let go of being involved, in every decision and let her run with it.”

Gouveia received help during her campaign in less traditional ways as well. People offered to cook for her or help clean her house. “People come together to rally for women who achieve their dreams, you just have to be open to accepting that help,” she said.

While Gouveia will not face a Republican nominee in the general election, she will face a Green Party candidate. She and her campaign team are still planning a full campaign for the general election.

When Emily Martz ’94 ran to be the president of the Council of Student Affairs, what is now the Honor Code Council, her campaign slogan was “Use your smarts, vote for Emily Martz.” And now, while vying for state Senate seat for New York’s 45th district, she hands out Smarties candies while repeating the same slogan.

Martz was a history major and politics minor at Mount Holyoke and was also involved in Glee Club. Upon graduating, she pursued a career in financial services, later earning a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in history, specializing in business and economic history. After working as a professor in upstate New York, she served as Deputy Director for Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA), an economic development nonprofit.

But in July of 2017, she left her position with the ANCA to pursue a U.S. House seat representing New York’s 21st congressional district.

“I almost feel like I should make up a story about that exact ‘aha’ moment,” Martz said, laughing.

In reality, Martz’s decision to run for office came to her gradually. Following the 2016 election, she began having conversations across political boundaries. “Those conversations glorified how much more we have in common ... than what divides us,” she said.

Martz also helped organize a community group of like-minded people to promote resistance to and educate people about Trump’s policies, but Martz soon realized there was something more she could be doing. “Activism is really important, but marches aren’t going to have an effect unless we have the right people in office,” she said.

“I realized if I’m saying this, I really need to run for office,” Martz added. She ultimately decided to run for a U.S. House seat because she likes working on issues at a large scale.

But in a competitive Democratic Primary, Martz ultimately lost the race. “It was at the end of the primary when I didn’t win that it really hit me how much I wanted to serve, and how disappointing it was that I wasn’t going to be able to serve in this way,” she said.

Still, Martz doesn’t regret running and feels that her campaign engaged people who had not participated in the political process before, whether they were knocking on doors or calling strangers to promote her platform.

But it would not be long before Martz would have her next opportunity to run for office. The night of the primaries on June 26, Martz and officials from the other campaigns attended a unity party to promote collaboration for the general election. About 10 minutes before she was to give her concession speech, someone asked her if she would be interested in running for state Senate.

While Martz did not believe she was ready to jump right into another campaign at that moment, she continued to receive support over the next couple of days, and ultimately decided she would run for the state Senate seat for New York’s 45th District. “It was a lot of back and forth but it boiled down to [the fact that] I felt that I had a responsibility to keep going,” Martz said.

Still, Martz had to declare her candidacy by July 12, and have a petition of 1,000 signatures to do so. Through viral social media and email chains, she earned 1,998 signatures in just nine days.

Despite receiving support from some enthusiastic voters, Martz has still faced adversity in her campaign. She recalled a discussion she had with a local elected official who told her, “I’m going to tell you this as your friend because I respect you. You don’t know anything about what our community needs. And I think you’re just on a high from campaigning and you shouldn’t be doing this.”

Martz called this experience demeaning and said the conversation comes back to her a couple of times a week. She maintains confidence by asking herself the question, “how would you feel if you weren’t doing this?” she said.

In the general election, Martz will challenge an eight-term Republican incumbent who has not faced Democratic opposition since 2006.

Mathilda Scott ’20 had the opportunity to meet Martz when she visited a College Democrats event last spring semester. Scott, a resident of upstate New York, was excited to welcome someone like Martz to campus. “It really was so amazing to see my worlds collide,” Scott said.

Scott said that this election cycle is an “electric moment for women running [for] office.” She recalled 1992’s “Year of the Woman” when more women than any decade before were elected to Congress. “I believe this revival of the Year of Woman is such a powerful force because the threats of the Trump administration are much more dangerous and present,” Scott said.

“I think [Martz] would be an amazing state senator,” Scott said. “For the last few years, the New York State Senate has been under Republican rule and I think the Senate needs a strong Democrat advocating for Upstate.”