‘I’m excited by the people’s beliefs about my religion’

Rachel Campos-Duffy, 35, is an evangelical Christian mother of four in Tucson, Arizona. As a member of the US House of Representatives and former girlfriend of one of its members, Allen West, she is one of the most senior women in the Republican party. She says she is constantly focused on women and their lives, with particular concern for the poor, and hopes to win the 2020 presidential election

In 2012 I was national co-chair of the Republican party – that meant a lot of diplomatic work with the Muslim world, with Africa, with Latin America. And I was chair of the North-South Center, a regional problem-solving dialogue between policy people. It was very public, and then afterwards, being in Congress and being a woman, it was very challenging.

As an African American woman, one of the things that people often say is “you can’t be a successful political woman, because we have a male chauvinist paradigm”. I would argue there are different ways to be successful as a political woman. I couldn’t be a successful politician if I wasn’t careful. I don’t agree with the views that I have that I have to live up to because I am a woman. I think that it’s not just me, it’s my husband, it’s our children.

If you look at male politicians with daughters, there is a big difference [in the messages they give]. You hear, “We don’t want to mess with your classroom; we’ll never interfere with your freedom to be an educator, if you choose to be a teacher.” And I’m in college and I’m OK with it because I’m a woman. You don’t hear that for men. Men just don’t want that .

I think we’re in such a different climate now, with women being more active in running for public office. The Democratic party has just done an amazing job in electing its first ever African American leader, and its first female chair, and every single place that she’s held has been met with good response.

Biden supporter Rachel Campos-Duffy speaks during a campaign rally in 2014. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

Biden has said that he would support me. If I do decide to run for president, and I feel very strongly that this is what is best for the country, I want to know that he supports that. We’re all human and we’re all going to make mistakes, but I’m praying that he will get safety right.

I respect people’s personal views about my religion. I’m excited by them. My parents were raised in a different culture, but I do love and respect them.

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