New York City Public Advocate Letitia James kicked off the second day of TheWrap’s BE Conference on Monday with call for more women to run for congress: “We have too many men in congress who are pale, male and stale,” James told the cheering and laughing crowd. “It’s time to change that.”
“We need more women in office, we need more women with fire in their belly, and they are in this room,” James continued. “Don’t be paralyzed by fear, put your high heels on, turn your red bottoms up, and just go seize it. I don’t want to quote rap right now, but I ‘started from the bottom, now I’m here.'”
Her advice to women attending the annual conference, which mentors and connects women, was to break down the walls that prevent women from achieving their dreams.
“For all of you millennials out there who want to run for office: run, ladies, run!” James said. “Harness the energy, remove barriers that impede women, continue to stand up and connect and mentor one another, and form joint organizations.”
James, who made history when she became the first woman of color to be elected to citywide office in 2o14, is also considering a run for the mayor’s office. If she decides to run, James said she would focus on issues of homelessness, mental health, the tension between the NYC mayor and governor, equal pay for equal work, infrastructure, and the labor movement.
But James also spoke about the challenges of women wanting to run for office.
“A man only has to look into the mirror and say, ‘I’m going to run for office,'” she said. “Someone has to ask a woman six or seven times, ‘are you going to run for office?’ And men just wake up and say, ‘I’m a man, I’m powerful, I’m going to do it.’ We feed of one another and we need to see that there are women in positions of power, if you cannot see it, you cannot be it.”
On the subject of the Trump era, James said we are in a “constitutional crisis” but we have “the opportunity to make a change.”
“What we’ve got to do is stand up and be strong,” she said. “The first pillar of our government so far have been the courts. The truth of the administration and the justice. That’s what we will continue to do. We will take this Agent Orange to court.”
James also said that the nation will need to continue to challenge president Donald Trump on issues of housing, and courts should partner with the media and women to make a change. She then said she’s meeting with Ben Carson to discuss the housing crisis soon.
“I’m meeting with Ben Carson whose hands may be gifted but maybe not when it comes to housing,” she said. “He used to be one of my heroes — but he should not be in government. He’s got an obligation and duty to fund urban centers — to retreat is unacceptable. I’ll be good, I won’t curse, I’ll make you proud. Because he’s a man of faith, I’m going to walk in with my bible. Cite to him and if that doesn’t work, then I’ll get angry.”