Cook: Mother's Day and the political ceiling

Cook: Mother's Day and the political ceiling

May 13th, 2018 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

Aloyse (pronounced AL-oh-weez) Brown is running as a Democrat for Hamilton County mayor.

Aloyse (pronounced AL-oh-weez) Brown is running as a...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Among the Mother's Day bouquets and brunches, make sure you also give your mom a voter registration card.

Because Mother's Day is also a political moment.

Mothers and women, long under-represented in local and national politics, have filled recent ballots like never before. From Diane Black and Beth Harwell to Dr. Danielle Mitchell and Marsha Blackburn to the half dozen or so local female candidates in the May primary or August general election, Tennessee women and mothers are challenging both long-held gender shibboleths and the halls of power.

And it's time.

You won't find a specific endorsement here; nor will you find a blanket claim to vote for all women.

But you will see a clear and forceful call to move beyond antiquated views that women are political afterthoughts.

It's time we realize that motherhood and political action can be synonymous.

Consider the candidacy of Aloyse Brown.

I first met Brown at an amusement park. It was a wedding reception; we both knew the brilliant bride.

Standing near the roller coaster, Brown said she was running for county mayor.

My first thought: there's no way.

Here? In Republican-rich Hamilton County? A Democrat and a woman?

But then, you listen to Brown talk and quickly realize the solid ground upon which she stands; you get excited by the way she articulates her vision; you remember how a surprised Donald Trump won the White House through galvanized voters everyone had neglected and overlooked; you recognize that more and more Southern voters now view women as effective and creative leaders; then, you look back at Brown, and think:

It could be her.

On Aug. 2, Aloyse Brown, 40, could become the first female mayor in the history of Hamilton County.

And the first mother.

"The fact that in 2018, Hamilton County has its first opportunity to elect a female mayor is itself a celebration of how far women have come, but it's also a reminder of the challenges that remain," she said.

Sure, victory's a long shot. A long, long shot.

And Brown isn't courting an easy sympathy vote — don't vote for me simply because I'm a woman, she says. However, she is acutely aware of the double standards and gravity that prevent women and mothers from entering political life, especially in Tennessee, ranked one of the worst states for women. (Brown's campaign team couldn't find evidence that a woman had ever run — ever! — for county mayor.)

"Women in the workplace have to prove ourselves times two," she said. "We have to continue to work harder because the system was designed without us. But the research shows that women are stronger leaders."

Brown has two children — Wolcott, 4, and Fox, 2 — with her husband, Mac, a local priest. She is a program manager for a national nonprofit that builds church pensions; she routinely oversees complex budgets, client relationships, data and resources.

She's built a platform around an urgent commitment to public schools, a pro-active approach to problem-solving — jail overcrowding can be solved in other ways besides building a new jail, she says — and more citizen input and participation.

"It's not too much to say that I'm running for mayor because I'm a mother, and that I'm running for mayor on behalf of the mothers in our community," she said.

So can Brown and other women running in Tennessee win?

There are roughly 192,600 registered voters in Hamilton County, according to the Election Commission.

Half are women.

In the May 1 election, only 10 percent of voters went to the polls.

That leaves 90 percent of voters.

Sure, galvanizing that 90 percent is the dream of all underdog candidates.

What if Brown energizes enough people to earn another 5 percent of voters? Or even 3 percent? What if the women of Hamilton County — nearly 100,000 voters — decide to back Brown?

Sooner or later, someone has to break the political ceiling.

So this Mother's Day, let fathers and sons join mothers and daughters in opening our hearts and minds wider politically, culturally, economically. Research specifically done by the Harvard Business Review shows how women excel, sometimes surpassing men, in leadership. It's time to rejoice over their presence on the ballot.

Because if we say we love and respect our mothers on this day, then we ought to also love and respect them on Election Day.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.

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