Ex-Reps Discuss Life After Defeats

Women in Congress, Democratic Party Are Focus of Talks

Both personal and party life go on after losing an election, three outgoing Democratic members of Congress told an audience of approximately 75 in a panel discussion at the Kennedy School last night.

Jill Long (D-Indians), Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Penn) and Karen Shepard (D-Utah), three members of the House of Representatives who were defeated in the elections last month, talked about their terms, their re-election races and the future of the Democratic Party.

The three received a standing ovation after addressing such topics as the low number of women in Congress--11 percent--and "the propaganda war."

"Politics is mean as hell," said Shepard, a Democrat from a heavily Republican state. "It costs more and rewards less than it ever has."

Margolies-Mezvinsky, who cast the vote that saved Clinton's first budget from defeat in the House, said she knew her seat was "on loan."

"When I was little, I told my mother I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to run away and join the circus," Margolies-Mezvinsky said. "Two years ago, I did both."

"You can't lose something you don't have," said Long, the Democrat who replaced Dan Quayle when he received the vice presidential nomination. "I didn't lose. I just didn't get the same opportunity again."

"There really is life after Congress," she continued. "There's life after defeat."

Women in Congress still face harassment that male members do not, the three agreed.

Shepard said her office received many obscene faxes and phone calls, as did Long's. Margolies-Mezvinsky said that she currently has police in her driveway because of death threats.

"There's just a lack of respect," Shepard said of the attempts at intimidation. "Since we're women, they take more permission."

The women waxed philosophical on what a life in public service means. All panel members stressed the importance of "doing the right thing," even if it means losing the next election.

"Leadership comes from the tough votes," said Margolies-Mezvinsky. "[Voting for Clinton's budget] was the right thing to do, and I would do it again."

The women also discussed the impact of the recent election on the Democratic party.

Shepard said the Democrats lost because of health care, while Margolies-Mezvinsky said she lost because of "gods and guns"--the religious right and gun control.

Long, rumored a candidate under consideration for the post of Secretary of Agriculture, said the election was a blessing in disguise for the Democrats.

"It's going to be easier to elect Bill Clinton in 1996," she said. "Now the Republicans will be scrutinized in the same way."