By Betsy Rothstein - 09/12/06 12:00 AM EDT
It feels like another world when you meet the aides in Rep. Susan Davis’s (D-Calif.) office. They are all about the cause and evoke a palpable lefty idealism for politics that extends beyond daily duties.
They believe in what Davis stands for and are as loyal as they come and say they wouldn’t feel right about jumping ship and working for another member. What drew them to Capitol Hill? Many say they came to Washington specifically to work for Davis and her causes — some without a job or a plan before they arrived.
Be it feminist issues, abortion rights or the environment, they support Davis’s views and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
Take Emily Castor, 23, who moved up to legislative assistant from her position as legislative correspondent. While a college student at the University of California at San Diego, she interned in Davis’s district office and was eventually hired as a staff assistant. She moved to Davis’s Washington office in June 2005.
In college Castor majored in political science and “critical gender studies,” which, she says, is an enlightened term for “women’s studies.” She explains that the major involves learning about how gender functions in society.
Her senior thesis explored the question of why there aren’t more women in Congress.
“I’d work for a man,” she says, but “I think it’s important for women to see women in politics. The number of [female] members is discouraging still.”
Spencer Young, 33, is the new legislative director. In 2002, he packed his bags in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was working as a police reporter, and moved to Washington in the middle of winter to intern for Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah).
“I just wanted to try a new career,” Young says, explaining that Matheson was his representative and that he wanted to work on the Hill. Three months later, he landed a paid position for Davis and has been there ever since. He graduated from the University of Utah.
Young, a nonactive Mormon, loves to explore nearby cities and bars, his favorite being The Raven in Mount Pleasant.
Daniel Hazard was recently promoted to legislative assistant from his previous staff assistant/legislative correspondent post. The 25-year-old Ventura, Calif.-native now handles defense, foreign affairs and homeland security issues.
Hazard, who graduated from the University of California, San Diego, moved to Washington in June of 2004 to intern for Davis. He spent a few months here but left to work in consulting before returning again in 2005. He says he was drawn specifically to Davis, not Capitol Hill as a whole.
“It’s very frustrating what’s going on,” he says. “I was drawn to this office because the congresswoman is so not political compared with her colleagues. I’m not sure I’d be so enthusiastic about the job if I were working in a different office.”
Suzanne Swink, 25, a legislative correspondent, and Lee Steuer, 22, a staff assistant, are two new aides in the office.
Swink’s previous job was at the National Abortion Federation, and before that she was a clinical assistant at Planned Parenthood in San Diego.
“I’ve been a great admirer of Congresswoman Davis’s dedication to women’s health,” she says. In her prior job at Planned Parenthood, Swink counseled patients about pregnancy options, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and worked with doctors during exams.
A native of Long Beach, Miss., Swink graduated from the University of Mississippi and is completing a master’s degree in International Policy at American University.
Steuer comes to the office with the most unique background of them all.
The Coronado, Calif.-native graduated from the University of San Diego and spent summers working with endangered bird species at the Naval Air Station North Island and Camp Pendleton.
In her field survey work, she’d walk along the ocean on military training grounds to assess the state of various bird species. She’d check for population and birth rates and occasionally would find chicks born prematurely or compromised by ants or cats.
“I don’t consider myself a birder,” she says, “but I like them in terms of an endangered species.”