For Women Seeking Mass. House, a Record Year
By Sophia Eppolito
Boston University Statehouse Program
BOSTON -- Tram Nguyen went into election night feeling cautiously optimistic, even hopeful. The first-time candidate for state representative sat at her election party, focusing on writing her speech when her campaign manager turned to her with a shocked expression on his face.
“Representative Nguyen,” he said. “You’ve won every precinct in Andover.”
Nguyen, who lives in Andover, had just defeated conservative Republican Rep. Jim Lyons, the incumbent in the 18th Essex District and another Andover resident, with about a 54 percent vote majority. The district includes Andover, North Andover, Boxford and Tewksbury.
“Even in a best scenario we never thought we would win every single precinct in Andover,” Nguyen said. “It was just so thrilling -- and then we won Boxford and then we won North Andover.”
Nguyen was one of a record-breaking 46 women elected to the Massachusetts House last week, surpassing the previous record of 42 in 1999. A total of 12 newcomers and 34 incumbents were successful, according to the Center for American Women in Politics. All but one of the newcomers were Democrats. Nguyen is also now the first Vietnamese-American woman to win elected office in Massachusetts history.
“We’re running for the people,” she said. “It’s clear because the people are going out to democratically vote for us in record numbers and that’s something we all should be very proud of.”
Rep.-elect Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, said she had always wanted to run for elected office, but decided this cycle was the best timing for herself and her family.
Gouveia, a progressive Democrat, beat out Green Party candidate Danny Factor for the 14th Middlesex District House seat, which includes Concord, Carlisle, Acton and Chelmsford.
“I couldn’t have planned it any better to be able to come into the building with such smart, dedicated, passionate, and compassionate women and I’m really looking forward to serving with them,” she said.
Although Gouveia was thrilled to see the record-breaking numbers from this election, she said there is still more work to be done until women and people of color are fully represented.
“While I’m excited to be serving with so many women what we really need ... is a full parity,” she said. “So while it’s great we have 46 and it’s a record number -- it’s not 81... It’s really important to create space so that people from all different backgrounds can serve.”
Unlike Gouveia, Rep.-elect and North Andover native Christina Minicucci said she had never planned on running. But when Rep. Diana DiZoglio announced that she would be vacating the 14th Essex seat, Minicucci decided to go for it. DiZoglio ran and won the 1st Essex seat in her bid for State Senate.
“It definitely was never on my radar screen as something I was planning on doing,” Minicucci said. “But after the 2016 election I was disappointed in the outcome and I just felt like it was my opportunity to get more involved in the community.”
The businesswoman and mother of three went on to win the Democratic primary with 67 percent of the vote in September and emerged victorious in the general election against Republican Ryan Losco.
Minicucci’s excitement about the number of women joining the Massachusetts House was twofold. As a woman working in the construction industry, she said she often ends up being “the only woman sitting in a group of men.”
“I’ve always worked in an industry that’s predominantly men,” Minicucci said. “I’m all of a sudden going to be surrounded by a cohort of women, which in my industry is so rare so it’s exciting for me on a whole other level.”
Minicucci said she was initially hesitant about knocking on people’s doors because she worried people wouldn’t take her seriously as a candidate.
“I figured the very first question everyone was going to ask me was ‘You have three kids, how are you going to do that?’” she said.
But as she knocked on thousands of doors she realized she was “worried about nothing.” After months of campaigning, only three people mentioned it to her.
“For me that was one of the most telling moments,” she said. “The tide is changing. I think that this really is going to be a good year for women because the playing field is feeling a little more level than it has before.”