Class of 2020 Endorsed Candidate: Allison Russo
Allison is a public health policy expert, a working mother, and an advocate for Ohio’s families. Her plan was never politics, but as a combat veteran’s wife, she has seen first-hand what a call to duty looks like. Rep. Allison Russo is a “passionate advocate for women,” serving as the Policy Chair for the Democratic Women’s Caucus and co-chair of the Children’s Caucus. A 2018 Matriots endorsed candidate, Allison joined the state legislature in 2019. During her time in office, she has sponsored multiple bills promoting women’s health, economic security, and fairness in the workplace, and uses her voice to improve childcare quality and affordability. Looking towards a second term, Allison will continue to listen to different perspectives, consider complex issues, and tenaciously seek solutions.
In 2021, Representative Allison Russo will serve in the 134th Ohio General Assembly.
Meet the Candidate: Allison Russo
1) In your interview with the Endorsement Committee, you shared a personal life experience that led you to the decision to run for office. Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
Before running for office, I worked for almost 20 years as an advisor to government leaders and policymakers on issues related to the financing and delivery of healthcare to seniors, vulnerable populations, and families. After the 2016 elections, I was very disheartened to see the gains made in healthcare, particularly for low-income Americans and those with pre-existing conditions, politicized to the point where elected officials were willing to not only inflict damage on those individuals but also further undermine the health of children, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. There was no real discussion about finding common ground and compromise on an issue that is so important to families’ economic security and well-being, and I found that unacceptable. I began using my expertise to speak out and empower others to also speak out, and I was encouraged to run for office by several of those individuals. In early 2018, I decided to become a candidate when I recognized that we need more elected officials who bring real-life perspectives and expertise to the table and who are more focused on working for the best interests of the people they represent, not partisan politics.
2) Many of you cited a specific person whose strength was an inspiration to you. Can you tell me about a woman who has had a big influence on your life and inspired you to become a leader? What lessons did she teach you?
I’ve had an unlikely path to politics. My mother married at 16, was 19 when I was born, and by the time she was 21, was raising two little girls on her own. My early childhood was spent in poverty, but my mother knew that pursuing her education would be a path to economic opportunity and middle-class life for her young family. In those early years, Mom did everything she had to do to pay the bills and put food on the table – cleaning office buildings, working in construction, and eventually becoming a secretary – all while also slowly taking classes at a local community college.
My mother exemplified the values of hard work and grit, and she taught me that, regardless of circumstances, everyone deserves dignity and is capable of success. My mother also held firmly to the belief that you should always be a champion and a voice for those who need it when you are in a position to do so. Mom eventually earned her college degree, and much later, her doctoral degree. She now works at one of the nation’s largest cancer centers developing recovery and advocacy programs for cancer patients and survivors. Two years ago, my mom celebrated her 60th birthday, and as a gift to herself, she hiked for eight days through the Alps from Italy to Switzerland with nine other like-minded women. She, my sister, and I plan to hike the same path together when this COVID-19 pandemic is over.
3) Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and a leader?
I spent the first several years of my marriage as a military spouse, and I began my professional career working on issues impacting the health of military members and their families. As a result, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the finest leaders and people in this country. These are leaders who believe in selfless service and whose bias is always towards action. This unique early professional experience taught me two important lessons: 1) always speak truth to power even when you are the only dissenting voice in the room; and 2) you are only as good as the people you lead.
4) The Matriots PAC has a bold goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
In 2028, I hope to see more elected officials who reflect the gender and racial make-up of the state and local communities. I also hope to see Ohio achieve national top 5 status in education, health status, and economic security. Ohio has all the building blocks for this success, but we need elected leaders who understand the intersection of these issues and who have the long-term vision and political will to get us re-focused on the future.
5) Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community faces today?
- Ensuring we are properly investing in early childhood education and our public education system so that all of Ohio’s children have the best possible opportunities from preschool to high school and beyond.
- Investing in Ohio’s public health and advancing innovative, evidence-based solutions that give every Ohioan a fair shot at affordable and accessible healthcare and well-being.
6) As a Matriots endorsed candidate in 2018 you were elected and now serve as in elected office. What policy change or improvement are you most proud of from your time in office?
During my first term in office, I have been a strong voice for early childhood education and care, public health, and Ohio’s military families. I am most proud of the work I’ve done as Co-Chair of the Legislative Children’s Caucus and on the House Health Committee to advance these issues with both meaningful legislation and advocacy. My lived experiences, both personal and professional, with these issues have guided my passion for this work and my resolve to improve Ohio’s investments in these critical resources.
6) Now for fun: Tell us something personal about yourself. It can be a hobby, your favorite food, a funny pet story, something we might not know about you that you would like to share with our members.
I love traveling with my family and even find great joy in the planning process (I’ve been known to research and plan a few trip itineraries “just for fun”). My husband and I have been very lucky to study, live, and work overseas, and as our family grows, being able to share our love of travel and different cultures with our kids has been one of our greatest blessings. Long-distance travel is what I’ve missed most during this pandemic, but it’s also provided a great opportunity for us to explore more amazing places closer to home.