Growing up as the daughter of a three-term Governor, politics has always been a part of my life. A typical weekend involved parades and official State ceremonies. I always appreciated how much my father enjoyed being in a position where he could truly make a positive difference in peoples’ lives, both immediately, like helping veterans with their benefits, and long-term, by enacting public policies that made West Virginia stronger.
While I never shunned life in the public eye, I always thought I would take a different path. I attended college and graduate school, earning my Master’s degree in Education and settled back in West Virginia with my husband to raise our three children. I was involved in the YWCA, local neighborhood and educational organizations; I always felt compelled to serve my community. I did eventually run for the House of Delegates, a position I held for four years and was part-time.
Then news came in 1999 that the Member of Congress from my district was retiring. Over the course of a few months, I felt a compelling urge to take my public service to a higher level. I felt like the problems of our country deserved great leadership, a fresh perspective and dedication. I believed that I could rise to the challenge and be that new voice.
Anyone in politics knows that running for office is very stressful, and can be especially hard on families. I don’t know how anyone can face such a heightened level of scrutiny without a tight knit, trusting, supporting network of family and friends; I relied on both, along with my inner voice, to give me the energy and strength to make a life changing decision.
While my friends and family encouraged me from Day One, I was hesitant to take on such a public role with three young children. I liked being a stay-at-home mom, and I enjoyed the day to day duties of family life. Things like dropping my kids off at school each morning, cheering them on at sports games and having regular family meals were very important to me. I knew if I was elected, I would be required to commute to Washington almost weekly, which meant that my husband would take on additional household responsibility.
My husband and I literally sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out a “Pros” and “Cons” list. We weighed the decision as a family, since it would affect everyone’s lives, not just mine. In the end, with the love and support of my friends and family, I decided to lean in and go for it. It was a tough campaign, but absolutely worth it. I have had the privilege of serving West Virginia in the United States Congress during one of the most defining decades in our country’s history.