Class of 2020 Endorsed Candidate: Denise Driehaus
Born and raised on the west side of Cincinnati, Denise Driehaus is a lifelong resident of Hamilton County and has spent the past 3 years as the County Commissioner. During her time in the legislature, Denise brought a collaborative and bipartisan approach to passing laws, focused especially on education, job creation, and the opioid crisis. When re-elected, Denise will continue to strive for positive change in her community, and continue the work she has initiated on the Board of County Commissioners and look for new opportunities to promote and support women and girls. Denise believes that having women at every table at every level of government is critical to the strength and vitality of our democracy.
In 2021, Denise Driehaus will continue to serve as a Hamilton County Commissioner.
Meet the Candidate: Denise Driehaus
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?
Back in 1968, during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history, my dad ran for Congress in the very conservative 1st district in Ohio. He knew he would lose, but felt that it was important for voters to have a choice and felt equally strong about lending a voice to the needs of those who did not have a voice in our community. I was 5 years old at the time, but distinctly remember driving around the neighborhood with my siblings in our wooden paneled station wagon (outfitted with a bullhorn on the roof) singing songs about supporting my dad for Congress. We dropped literature, went to festivals and approached the campaign with vigor. I never forgot how committed my dad was to running that losing campaign and how much he valued every voice in the political process. I view public service as a way to raise every voice in our community and address the broad needs that exist.
2) Many of you cited a family member whose strength was an inspiration to you. Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
I have been inspired by many women in my life. One such woman was a teacher I had at Seton High School, Pam Dolan. She taught a Social Justice class and was constantly pushing us to think broadly about the challenges that other people face. She insisted that we all had a responsibility to work to improve the lives of those around us no matter our career choices or life circumstances. She had a keen understanding that we learn through exposure and so often spoke of the lives of those who we would not likely encounter. She led by example, traveling to Central America every year to help those in desperate need. I learned a great deal from her and try to think of others in both my personal and professional life.
3) Some of you are teachers, some businesspeople, some professionals, some homemakers. How has your career and life experiences shaped who you are as a person and a leader?
Before I entered elected office, I owned and operated two small businesses. This experience forced me to find ways to problem solve through challenging situations and work with people of different backgrounds to get things done. I have had success working across the aisle, as I served in a deep minority in the Ohio legislature, because I am willing to listen to different points of view and work toward common ground. As a mom to my daughter, Sarah, I am a fierce advocate for policies that strive to improve the lives of girls and am the founder of the Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls.
4) The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
My vision for Ohio is that the legislature and other elected bodies throughout the state reflect the people they represent, which would mean at least 50% of those elected to serve would be women. I have always believed that diversity at every level of government is imperative and that women must have a seat at every table in order for our communities to thrive.
5) Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
My answer to this question would have been different just a few months ago, but today our number one challenge is dealing with the emotional, economic and health related impacts of COVID19. We are struggling with reduced budgets, but have been able to address community needs with federal dollars. We have launched programs that provide rental, small business and nonprofit assistance, rehoused the homeless population, expanded testing, purchased PPE for our first responders and elementary students, among other things.
We also have seen racial unrest in our community and so the second issue is finding a way forward where all of the voices in our community are heard. We recently passed a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis in Hamilton County with a commitment to improve law enforcement training, conduct a diversity study and expand the Office of Economic Inclusion and Equity.
6) Now for fun: Tell us something personal about yourself. It can be a hobby, your favorite food or something we might not know about you that you would like to share with our members.
I am a beekeeper! I just started this summer and my bees (thankfully) are thriving. I must admit that I love that the queen rules the hive and the worker bees are all female! It has been a fascinating hobby and I am glad to part of a larger effort to increase the bee population in Ohio and help the environment.