Interview with Francine Shacter, Democratic for Congress in AZ CD8

Meet Congresswoman Mom.

It’s not her chosen campaign slogan, but I think it sums up Francine Shacter’s iconoclastic campaign for Congress in Arizona’s 8th District pretty well. When asked, Francine chose as her (purely provisional) slogan, “I will listen to people and represent their views and bring back to them good ideas.” Not so snappy.

A divorced Jewish woman, 77 years old, who raised four kids by herself begining in 1961 (the result was nearly the Jewish trifecta – she got a lawyer and a doctor, but no Rabbi, just a scientist), Francine is a graduate with honors of the school of life (and of Goddard College in economics). She wants to use her life experiences to represent and work with and for the people of Arizona’s 8th District.

Francine proclaims herself proudly to be a Roosevelt Democrat; a highlight of her life was meeting Eleanor Roosevelt as a young woman. She clearly believes that government has a duty to make life better for people and is capable of doing so, given the right leadership. She is also bucking against the trend of incivility in the current political climate. She pleads for the Democratic nomination campaign to be more civil and less divisive.

At the same time, however, and perhaps contradictorily, she in unabashed about her criticism of Randy Graf, whom she would likely face in the general election if she wins the primary. She told me to quote her specifically when she said, “There is something gross about him” and that he “embodies values I abhor.” There seems little doubt that she’ll be very forthright in her critique of the opposition should she be nominated. If you are worried that the Democratic nominee will fail to draw clear contrasts with the opposition, that’s not a concern with Francine. At the same time, she makes it clear that she feels no personal animosity toward her political opponents. She says of Bush that she doesn’t hate him; she just wants him out.

Francine’s philosophy of leadership is cooperative and constructive, despite her blunt opinions. As a major qualification for the calling she now pursues, she emphasizes her career of public service, where she gained experience in working across interest communities to achieve policy objectives. Francine worked for 30 years in government on the Hill and in the executive branch as a manager and statistician. The result is an enthusiastically people-oriented person who also delights in policy minutiae and numbers. During my formal interview with her, I asked her to refrain from details and focus on the big picture. Suffice it to say that I’ve had to edit for length nonetheless.

Francine believes that Congress should be representative, not just in a formal sense, but also in reflecting the demographics of the populace. In this regard, Francine may be representative of views and persons not currently well represented in government. Francine was a pioneer of now common lifestyle, that of working single mother, and that experience gives her a perspective on labor and family issues, education, poverty, and government assistance that currently has little foothold in the corridors of power.

Francine holds out her life experiences and her “smart and incorruptible” character as her best qualifications for office. She points out that she sees holding office as Congresswoman as a privilege, a public trust, and a capstone of her career in public service, not as the stepping-stone to higher office that others in the race may seek. She opines that it does not reflect well on a candidate to abandon one’s recently elected office as soon as an opportunity for advancement presents itself.

On the subject of the logistics of her campaign, Francine is forthright about her unconventional approach. She does not currently employ any staff, relying entirely on volunteers. She describes her current fundraising situation as dismal. She intends to run a very lean campaign and thinks that if she could raise 50K, she should be able to mount a successful campaign. She wants to limit her exposure to big money donations on principle, and she says the campaign she most admires is that of a certain current candidate for Congress who has 400 volunteers working actively on her campaign.

While I do have opinions about the candidates I interview and their views, I am not interested (at this time!) in choosing a candidate to recommend to other voters. The transcript of the interview that follows is as close I could come to a verbatim transcript, except that it has been edited for brevity. My opinions or comments about specific answers are in square brackets and do not constitute part of the transcript.

I interviewed Francine on February 28, 2006 in Tucson:

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