Women in Politics Series: Talking With Three MN Legislators

We talked with Rep. Alice Hausman, Rep. Rena Moran, and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray about why they are stepping down, the successes and frustrations they have felt, and what they want to see as they pass the torch to the next generation of political leaders.

:24 Alice Hausman — You can never let the fact that you are in the minority be an excuse for not getting something done.

4:05 Rena Moran — There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. At one moment someone that you’ll work really well with and may have a bill come around that they are opposed to it and those who have been fighting on another issue you will find that you have a partnership.

5:39 Patricia Torres Ray — For 16 years just listening to [the rhetoric] … we need to do something about not incarcerating more African American boys and we need to do something about eliminating these disparities for immigrant families that work so hard and contribute to the economy, but we cannot give them a driver’s license, we cannot increase money for education. It is just unbelievable for me as a legislator to feel so powerless — to feel that I am surrounded by power every day that i go serve with other senators every day to talk about these issues … and yet we don’t want to take action. It is very hard to to really talk with women of color, especially with young women of color, to say you know you need to come and do this work and have an impact and make a difference and then say, ‘well, I am so frustrated about the fact that we are not able to really engage these legislators in making a difference. That is why I think the organizing outside of the legislature is san imperative. We really need to be able to inspire people, to say ‘you know you need to be here and fight with us,’ because at the end of the day in the Senate we we have only five people of color — that that number is simply not enough to influence the outcome.

7:10 Alice Hausman — We also need to talk about the dysfunction of our working style, linking everything rather than taking an issue, making a decision, and moving on. That is an intentional leadership style and decision that leaders make because they believe they have more power if they hold everything to the last minute and then they can deal everything off against everything else.

That last-minute deal-making, where they have saved all of the stuff thinking it will give them more power in the negotiation is hurting our state. It is hurting our country — they are doing in Washington, too. It is a bad habit we have gotten into and somehow we have to break that habit

7:50 Patricia Torres Ray — I am so glad you speak about that, Alice. The transaction governs everything we do, and that is the difference. We talk about how women are transformational, and how we see, because families drive what we do.

Transforming the world, transforming policy, transforming what is in front of us — that is the lens through which women lead and govern. Men are transactionalists — ‘What do you have? Do I have this? Can I give it to you? When is the timing to do this transaction?’ The process of transaction has dominated the legislature for as long as I have been there.

Right now in my committee every single bill that we are hearing is a project because we are up for re-election. Come on, this is the environment committee. At the end, they are going to go to the House and say ‘we want these little projects project projects.’

16:33 Rena Moran — The legislature is relational. [My advice is to] build relationships, learn that you are going to have to compromise, that everything will not go your way, and if you push too much the only thing you are going to get from that is enemies and someone who is going to hold something against you. Yes, fight for what you believe in but know that you are dealing with other people who have their district in mind about what they want that may be totally different than what you see is needed for your district. Know that diverse voices at the. Capitol is important and you have to educate people on what is impacting your community, your family, your neighbors, that may be different from the world that they came from. That is what I want to pass on to the new legislators, because we always come with that fight.