Most everybody who is a friend or colleague of mine has come to know of my friendship with Stephanie Tubbs Jones over the past few years. I liked to talk about her — the loud and proud gentlelady from Ohio, the sassy fighter for social justice who always wore bright red power suits, the woman who refused to shake your hand when she met you insisting on a hug instead.
Congresswoman Tubbs Jones was (and is) my political hero. I met her back in 2004 after the disastrous voting situation in Ohio, where students at (my) Kenyon College stood in line for up to 12 hours to cast a ballot. Her office called me not long after, inviting me to speak at a rally in Cleveland with her and Senator Clinton to endorse their "Count Every Vote Act," which the New York Times later hailed the "gold standard" of election reform.
Backstage after the event, Stephanie gave me a high-five and said, "we need more young fighters like yourself, kiddo" and told me to keep in touch. Well, I did, and ever since, she went out of her way to support my efforts in starting SAVE—the Student Association for Voter Empowerment.
I remember a phone call I had with her this past spring when I asked her to support two pieces of legislation that SAVE was lobbying to help young people register to vote. I started describing why the legislation was so vital and she cut me off mid-sentence and said, "You don't need to sell it to me, Matt, you already know I am with you."
Stephanie was intensely loyal like that — I knew all along she would stand by Hillary until the end and she told me earlier this summer how honored she was to "be a face for a major presidential campaign."
Congresswoman Tubbs-Jones with the SAVE staff in 2007
The most impressive part about Stephanie, however, was how courageous and authentic she was. In the elections world, she will be remembered for standing up in front of Congress and Vice President Cheney to contest the 2004 counting of Ohio's 20 electoral votes.
Just after I introduced her for a speech she gave six weeks ago, she told the audience about her decision to protest the 2004 electoral vote certification with Senator Boxer. She said that she was threatened at the time — that if she were to contest the Ohio vote certification that she might be blacklisted by certain House members or might lose her ability to secure earmarks for her congressional district.
Her response? "Bring it on!" Stephanie explained that people like her would outlast those in Congress who are too fearful of political consequences. Now, we can only hope her like-minded colleagues will sustain her tenacity.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones relished her job. She was so proud, the daughter of a United Airlines sky cap, to be one of 435 Americans serving in the U.S. Congress. She told our audience six weeks ago that there will be days when we get "knocked down" and question whether the system can work for us, but we must keep fighting..."like in Rocky!" she said.
Stephanie was a giant and I am proud to been her friend. My heart-felt condolences go out to her family and her wonderful staff who I have had the sincere privilege of working closely with throughout the last few years.