By Samantha Ehlinger McClatchy
WASHINGTON _ Newly elected Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina said Wednesday that being the 100th woman in Congress comes with a lot of responsibility.
And part of that responsibility, she said, will be advocating for women, children and families, workers and others. “I’m glad I’m finally here,” Adams said in
an interview Wednesday as she walked between celebratory events on Capitol Hill. Later that evening, she was one of three new lawmakers sworn in _ weeks ahead of other newly elected members _ because she is filling the 10-month vacancy left by former Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., who resigned to serve as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The special election to fill his seat was held at the same
time as the general election. Adams took the oath of office on
the House floor, to applause from family watching in the gallery. During her prepared remarks, the newly minted lawmaker acknowledged the women who came before her.
“I stand on the shoulders of the fearless women who shattered the glass ceiling,” Adams said.
At a reception Wednesday, Adams took time to thank her constituents and friends who helped her get to Washington. She was surrounded by family and friends, high school classmates, former students, campaign workers and volunteers.
“Think about it; I’m the 100th woman that will be sworn into Congress tonight,” Adams told her guests. They grinned, whistling, clapping and cheering, “Yes!”
“It truly is a special day for me, and for the citizens of the 12th (congressional) district,” she said.
While new to Capitol Hill, Adams isn’t new to politics. Her experience includes time on the Greensboro school board, the city council and in the North Carolina General Assembly. She is not only known for her political work, but for her style. She said she wears one of her 900 hats almost every day.
She had to leave her hats at home, however, for her swearing-in because they are banned on the House floor.
“I know that I can’t have one on the floor, so I didn’t want to mess my hair-do up,” she said as she popped from event to event Wednesday.
Her first order of business as a new congresswoman will be getting her district
offices open and letting her constituents know what resources are available.
“My district has waited 10 months for representation,” Adams said to her guests. “That’s too long, so I’m prepared to get to work, and I’m going to get to work right away.”
As the 100th woman in Congress, women’s issues are a big concern.
“All issues are women’s issues, whether we’re talking about finance or job creation,” Adams said in the interview. “Women are heading households, women are losing jobs.”
In a statement, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said she was “encouraged to see more women making their voices heard and taking their seat at the table.” But she also added, “It is also a sobering reminder of how far we have yet to go. Women comprise more than 50 percent of our nation’s population, but less than 20 percent of our elected officials in Congress.”
Partisanship in Congress, and Democratic losses last week in the House could mean a tough session for her party. But Adams said that to combat the political acrimony, representatives will have to come together on common ground.
“I think we spend too much time on those things that we differ on,” Adams said, “and that’s why people see this as a Congress that can’t get anything done.”