“Wellesley” Magazine Follows Two Alumnae Candidates in the 2018 Midterm Elections

Two women look into the camera
Image credit: Webb Chappell/Stefan Wachs
March 1, 2019

This is an edited excerpt from an article by Amita Parashar Kelly ’06 that originally appeared in the winter issue of Wellesley magazine. The full story can be found on the magazine’s website. 

It’s just before lunch at the Cape Verdean Adult Day Health Center in Dorchester, Mass., and someone turns down the blaring dance music so that Liz Miranda ’02 can call a raffle.

It’s fewer than three weeks to Election Day, so in between shouting ticket numbers in confident Cape Verdean Creole—um, sax, séti, trés—Miranda reminds the seniors to vote on November 6.

Miranda’s prize is much more consequential than the dollar-store scarves she’s handing out—a seat in the Massachusetts State House to represent her home district.

When she was growing up here, Miranda never dreamed she’d run for office. But in the 2018 midterms, she became one of a record number of female candidates who ran for state and national office. That wave included 12 Wellesley alumnae who ran in elections for statewide office.

Like Miranda, these candidates ran because they decided they were the best for the job. That decision to run, however, was only the first step. Many had to navigate their own rocky paths—they had little or no campaign experience, free time, or donor networks. But they knew how to mobilize, and that’s what they did—pulling in family, friends, alumnae, and strangers to help.

Across the country in Los Alamos, N.M., optometrist Lisa Shin ’91 waged a quieter, but no less passionate, campaign for a seat in her own state legislature.

On a sunny afternoon a few weeks before Election Day, Shin and a few volunteers in blazing red shirts canvassed a suburban neighborhood near her campaign headquarters.

Her district stretches about two hours by car. It includes downtown Los Alamos—where Shin has owned her own optometry practice for two decades—and remote mountain towns surrounded by towering red rock formations.

Shin’s campaign is a tough sell going into Nov. 6. She is running as a Republican in a district that has been held by Democrats since 2012.

In most campaigns, volunteers are trained to escalate the conversation with any voter who will engage—try to get them to donate money or hang a sign. But that’s not how Shin operates.

She explains that she doesn’t want to push too hard—it’s awkward. People are just living their lives, and she understands that not everyone agrees with her or her conservative positions, she says. And as one of only a few optometrists in town, she’s wary of alienating or annoying people who might be patients by talking about politics.

Shin’s first priority is being in the community to talk about her candidacy and platform with as many people as possible.

Photo: Liz Miranda ’02 (left), photo by Webb Chappell; Lisa Shin ’91 (right), photo by Stefan Wachs