As the Minnesota House of Representatives chose Melissa Hortman to be the new speaker of the House this week, voices of mothers rang through the State Capitol.
A sea of red-shirted moms chanted and toted signs demanding gun control outside the chamber. And inside, moms rose to power. Long-time state Representative Mary Murphy celebrated the qualities of moms as she nominated Hortman for the most powerful role in the House.
“Moms are the heartbeat of all of our families,” she told the chamber. “Trust the mothers because they have all the strengths that a strong speaker of House of Representatives needs.”
Hortman is an eight-term representative from Brooklyn Park. She's a lawyer and the former House minority leader. She is also a mother of two.
“You know, I think the good thing about moms in political leadership is that we are not competitive,” said Hortman. “We are in the habit of getting things done for other people.”
To get things done, Hortman vows to bring a collaborative leadership style to a place often stymied by partisan rancor.
“There's so much talent here, there's so many leaders, that we need to give people different opportunities to shine.”
Hortman was just 10 years old when she fell in love with politics. She remembers watching Jimmy Carter lose the presidential election to Ronald Reagan that year and learning about the civil rights movement in school.
“I saw the power of the law to change that,” she said. “And it was just really exciting, the idea of being on the side of justice, being involved in lawmaking to change that.”
Coon Rapids Representative Zach Stephenson expects Hortman to be a thoughtful leader and good listener.
“Melissa is someone who knows her facts and evidence, who takes the time to study and research an issue before coming to a conclusion,” he said.
Whether she relies on her strengths as a mom, lawyer or politician, she intends to use her 15 years of experience in the House to get to work.
“I'd like to think I'm a person who doesn't really care who gets credit,” said Hortman. “And you really can get a lot done when you don't care who gets credit.”
Jennifer Anderson reporting