One is a "chick from the '80s." The other is a lesbian in her 30s. They agree on many things — except who to vote for. Could Washington take a lesson from these two friends who listen to each other with open minds?
Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN)
They were both raised by New England liberals who make Barack Obama appear conservative. Their friendship blossomed in college, where they both were "older" students. Now the two women thrive in work usually dominated by men: money and cars.
The lives of Susan-Anne Terzakis and Anna Hayes are separated by a few miles on the Granite State's famed Route 3, but even more so by an ideological divide.
In November, one will vote Republican, the other Democratic.
The two friends are, in many ways, like so many other women in New Hampshire, a proudly purple state that abides by its motto: "Live Free Or Die."
They are well aware that their state is the first in the nation to elect an all-female congressional delegation. The governor is also a woman, Maggie Hassan.
As Terzakis put it: "We are rockin' it in this state."
I don't care what language you talk, what music you like or what color you are. You have to communicate with people.
There's a stigma for young people who vote for Republicans. The GOP needs to change on social issues.
We need to protect our borders. We need to protect our little ones.
No man or woman should tell me how I should live my life.
It would be a traumatic experience for our family. She would know I disagreed with her choice but that she can find forgiveness from her father and I. And from God.
I am a firm supporter of equality for all Americans, and it's important to have people in office who are willing to sacrifice for that equality.
To be a woman, then a woman of color and a Muslim — it's a daily struggle.
(Democrats) assume all young women favor abortion. It's funny that the party that is pro-choice gives us no choice.
I would never sacrifice my family to focus on work. I don't think men have to deal with these issues as much.
I can be as sweet as you please, but if you cross that line, I can be the biggest b***h in the world.
How women here cast their votes is key in the upcoming midterm elections, especially for Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic incumbent, and her Republican challenger Scott Brown, a former senator from neighboring Massachusetts who lost his seat in 2012 to a woman, Elizabeth Warren.
The New Hampshire Senate race has tightened to the "too-close-to-call" category and could help determine whether Democrats maintain control of the upper chamber on the Hill.
It's all come down to women in a state where women rule, literally.
On a brisk fall day last week, I found conservative women at a pumpkin regatta on the Piscataquog River in Goffstown discussing their fears about America's borders. They're the so-called "security moms" Brown is courting, talking Ebola and ISIS and trying to make the vote a referendum on Obama and his foreign policy.
And not far away, at the University of New Hampshire's commuter campus in Manchester, female college students expressed shock at the idea that anyone in 2014 would oppose a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. They've watched Shaheen, a former New Hampshire governor, stand firm on women's issues and force Brown to publicly discuss abortion.
Terzakis, 49, and Hayes, 33, agree on many philosophical questions. They view their mothers as role models. They worry for their children's future. Where they part ways is how to make government work best for the people, female and otherwise.
Terzakis meets me on a dreary New England morning in the lobby of my hotel in Manchester. She is wearing a dress made of gray suit material, maroon patent leather pumps and a smile that can erase stress instantly.
I'd found Terzakis through a women's business networking organization, and she introduced me to her "liberal friend," Hayes. Though they'd both grown up in Democratic households, their outlooks diverged somewhere along their life journeys.
Terzakis asks about my dinner the night before with Hayes, who'd spoken openly about how she overcame a long and destructive battle with bipolar disorder and alcohol.
"She didn't allow her circumstances to define her," Terzakis says of her friend. "She stuck it out. She's not a quitter. I think that dynamic is incredible in women."
Her remarks set the tone for our conversation.
She makes herself comfortable in an armchair and says that Washington could learn a lesson or two from her relationship with Hayes. All that partisan bickering and allergy to compromise is ruining America.
Though she disagrees with Obama — she'd like to tell him to do an all-systems halt and think about why Americans are screaming — she says he "can't catch a break on golden wings."
In her childhood, she recalls, politics was honorable. As a young woman, she idolized Tip O'Neill, the outspoken liberal speaker of the House from Massachusetts.
"He was a master in the art of the deal. He sat down and respectfully listened to you, she says. "I've never defined a person by one note."
All boats are lifted when a woman is empowered to own her own business.
That's why Terzakis, who considers herself a moderate, can support more socially conservative politicians like Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire's other senator for whom Terzakis worked briefly. Or congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia, a "rising star in the Republican Party" and a staunch foe of same-sex marriage and government funding for abortions.
Those positions bother many Republican women in New Hampshire, who think like Terzakis. She describes herself as a Ronald Reagan-inspired fiscal conservative who believes in American exceptionalism. But the tea party, she says, is out of step with the nation.
"I am clearly pro-choice." And gay marriage?
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that we are even having that conversation in 2014. It is a basic human right. You may disagree on religious grounds but that does not trump rights under the Constitution.
"Look, you can't have everything all at once," she says. "I genuinely admire Senator Ayotte as a strong, tenable leader. I mean, the girl is getting it done!"
That's the way Terzakis operates.
She wakes up before sunrise at her house in Bedford, a conservative town just west of Manchester teeming with suburban mansions and coiffed lawns. From her offices there and in Nashua, 20 minutes south on Route 3, Terzakis operates her own financial coaching firm, advising clients on small business strategies.
She likes nothing more than to help a woman stand up her own company.
"All boats are lifted," she says, when a woman-owned business succeeds. Women, she believes, are more inclined to hire locally and give back to their own communities. "It's an amazing dynamic."
Terzakis carries a tomato-red Dooney & Bourke shoulder bag stocked with a matching wallet, business cards, Ray Bans and a 2.2 ounce can of L'Oreal Elnett Satin hairspray to tame her blond tresses. She makes it a point to leave her cell phone in the car when she's in a business meeting. Her clients' time is too valuable for her to interrupt it with calls.
"This pretty much sums Susan up," she says of herself, spilling the contents of her bag on a table. "I can take on any meeting with this."
She recognizes aerosol hairspray is not in vogue and without prompting says, "Come on. I'm a chick from the ‘80s."
It's Terzakis' libertarianism that repels her from Democrats. She acknowledges the role of the state in helping those in true need but too often, she says, social programs become economic crutches for people who could be working harder.
"I'm a huge advocate of personal responsibility," she says. "You gotta get in the fight. It's tough to see women around you use abortion as a method of birth control.
"Sometimes life gets ahead of you. That's when government is at its best. But I think we really lose when we say, ‘Don't try. We got you.' You stifle that burning desire to achieve."
She actually liked the intent of Obama's Affordable Care Act, but when I mention Obamacare to her now, her head begins shaking before I've finished the question.
"Look, the system was broken, but I don't like how it was rammed down our throats," she says. "Obama did a top-down implementation on a policy not truly embraced by the American people. It was contrary to the Granite State way of doing things."
She heard one of Shaheen's town hall meetings on Obamacare and got even more turned off to her candidacy.
Terzakis learned about hard work from her mother, Maureen, who ran the family-owned Ye Olde Sandwich Shop across from the historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts. Maureen was tapped by her Irish Catholic family to become a nun. She told her family to keep looking.
From a tender age, Terzakis interacted with tourists from all over the world who visited the town that gained infamy for its witch trials. She waitressed, ran the cash register, bused tables at the restaurant.
"It was all hands on deck. It was a laboratory to see how stick-to-itness materialized," she says.
At the dinner table, she was made to take responsibility for her opinions and actions.
"What my mom found most abhorrent was to be an accidental tourist in your own life. She was always questioning why."
After college, Terzakis married Andrew, an Air Force officer. "He was my first and only blind date. I still get butterflies when I see him."
She looks back at her life through the lens of a military spouse – through all the places her husband's job took them. Hawaii, Arizona, Nebraska, New Mexico, Illinois, Virginia, Washington D.C.
When she lived on Route 123 in Lorton, Virginia, she took her daughters – then in middle school – to a memorial honoring suffragettes at the local prison. In 1917, more than 70 women were jailed there, beaten and force-fed. It became a turning point in the struggle for women to gain the right to vote.
She wanted Jessica, now 26, and Rachael, 24, to see the price women paid to give them the rights they have today. She thinks too many young women lose sight of the struggle.
"Our vote is less than a hundred years old," Terzakis says. "I don't believe they understand my mom didn't have everything they do."
Despite the gains made by women, Terzakis worries about what kind of future awaits her daughters.
"We had so many options," she says about her generation. "It seems like our kids don't have that."
So, who are the role models of today? Which women inspire her?
Terzakis points to the cleaning woman vacuuming a rug in the hotel lobby.
"There's a lot of honor here in these women who show up every day and get it done."
Unlike Terzakis, Hayes never abandoned her liberal roots, formed strongly in her upbringing in tiny Canterbury, about half an hour north of Manchester.
The one dream I have to make happen is to become a mom.
Her father was a doctor. As a child, Hayes made house calls with him, pretending to be his assistant. She wanted to become a cardiovascular surgeon, except she was no good at math.
Her mother, Martha, was a nutritionist who for a while stayed at home to take care of Hayes and her younger brother. Later their mom became a teacher.
"Growing up, I looked up most to my father. He was the one everyone in town knew. He was more inspirational than my stay-at-home mom."
Hayes played outdoors with her brother and with imaginary friends. She kept a journal and made up names for the children she hoped to have one day: Brianna, Michaela. They were always girls.
When she was 11, she attended a Bill Clinton rally in Concord, the state capital, and felt a political energy that awakened her. She knew she could grow up to make a difference; that she was a part of something much larger.
"I haven't ever voted for a Republican candidate," she says. "And probably never will."
Hayes' troubles in life began as a teenager when she was diagnosed as bipolar.
"It changed how my family perceived me," she says. "And I wasn't on board with counseling or medication."
Instead she self-medicated with alcohol and sought out trouble.
She enrolled at Hollins University in Virginia, an all-girls school. "Subconsciously, it appealed to me," she says, though she did not acknowledge she was gay until many years later.
But college didn't work out so well. She felt sick all the time and didn't take her medication. She flunked out, returned home to her support system and started working at a local Target.
At 27, she found herself headed for the altar with a man. She broke off that relationship, came out to her family as a lesbian and aimed to get her life under control. A large part of that was getting back on her medications and finishing college.
Hayes' Facebook page cover photo sports a quote from poet Maya Angelou: "I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."
She first met Terzakis at the University of New Hampshire when Hayes returned to school a few years ago, determined to finish her degree in political science.
She now lives in a rented apartment with her partner, Whitney, and works as a customer care manager at a Chevrolet dealership in Concord, where 80% of the employees are men. (She admits she drives a Hyundai, not a Chevy.)
"I wish gender wasn't such an issue, but I know we are a long way from that. I am constantly reminded of that as someone who works in a male-dominated industry like the car business."
She likes her job. "I feel like I can pretty much hold my own," she tells me over a dinner of tomatoes, mozzarella and seared ahi tuna.
But she says she knows she isn't paid what her male counterparts make. That bothers her. So does the fact that she is in sales. She wants someday to be employed in public service. She, like Terzakis, grew up in a home that stressed the importance of giving back.
"I've paid a lot of attention to the way candidates speak about public assistance," she says. "Americans make social programs out to be negative. I know there are people who take advantage of these programs – I see some pretty aggressive remarks on social media — but they help a lot of people."
Hayes is astounded sometimes by things her female co-workers say. One said she didn't care if her employer's health insurance didn't pay for contraceptives. That made Hayes think, like Terzakis, that younger women do not appreciate how hard-won certain rights for women were.
"I feel like it's going to take, unfortunately, this generation to lose some of the rights we've all grown up with to get women thinking," she says.
Next year, a new state "paycheck equity" law will let workers talk freely about their salaries without fear of retaliation — an effort to help them uncover pay inequities.
Sources: Representation 2020, Institute for Women's Policy Research, National Women's Law Center, candidate websites
She served for a while on the board of the Concord Feminist Health Center, which among other things provides abortions. She felt there was a big disconnect between young women and the center.
A large part, she says, has to do with the stigma that she feels is now attached to feminism.
"I think over the years, some people have used that word to scare women; to pit them against one another. Feminism is about equality, about opportunity, about women having a vote, having a hand in their future.
"It's about power."
On this point, Terzakis agrees. But again, the difference between the two women is over how to attain that power.
"I've been taught not to ask for it. It comes from within," Terzakis says. "You are enfranchised. So stop looking around for it. You have it."
Hayes believes government should make sure women are enfranchised. Gender inequality still exists, she says, because a lot of men are afraid of empowering women. Women, she says, have the ability to get over their differences and join together more than men do. They are more compassionate, more willing to change.
"That is scary to men because it can bring change on so many issues," she says.
But ultimately, it's not the gender of a candidate that matters to Hayes. It's what that candidate stands for.
"Someone like Marilinda Garcia is terrifying to me," she says about the congressional candidate's positions on gay marriage and abortion.
The women on Hayes' inspiration list include California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Maine's former Sen. Olympia Snowe and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
And of course, Hillary Clinton, even though she hesitated on gay marriage and her foreign policy is sometimes too hawkish for Hayes.
"But I admire her tenacity. I admire that she never apologizes for who she is."
Hayes, like Terzakis, describes herself as family oriented. Later in life, it has been her mother who inspires her most. She admires how her mother made so many sacrifices for her during her battle with bipolar disorder yet always made them seem like labors of love.
Of all the dreams Hayes had as a girl, she says one stands out.
"The one dream I have to make happen is to become a mom," she says, explaining that she had her eggs frozen in January because she isn't quite ready yet to have a baby.
But when she does, she knows she, like her friend, will worry about her children's future. Hayes experienced the traumas of rape and abortion. She doesn't want her daughter to ever live through those.
"Even my parents couldn't keep me safe," she says.
She mentions Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York who has been pushing Congress to pass stronger laws to stop sexual assault in the military. That's why it's important to have women in the halls of government, Hayes says. Only a woman, she believes, would push to end such violence.
That's why she votes her instincts. That's why, she says, she votes for strong Democrats. She won't stray from that at the polls this year, either.
I ask her what the tattoo on her right wrist says. She turns over her arm to show me.
"Trust in your heart."
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