This is the latest profile in what will be a series of pieces highlighting candidates for the Montana Legislature in 2018.
Mary Caferro is running for a state house seat in Helena.
Who is Mary Caferro?
I am an experienced state legislator, an advocate, a dedicated mom, grandma, and foster mom, sister, aunt, neighbor, and friend. I truly care about people and am committed to public service and to my community and state. I take pride in being able to work well with people who hold differing viewpoints and beliefs. I love meeting people and hearing their stories. I am grateful to live in our nation’s most beautiful state and grateful for every minute I get to spend enjoying our environment.
What got you involved in politics?
My parents, my life experience as a single mother, and my drive to help people got me into politics. I was born to an Italian, union-organizing railroader and an Irish nurse. We had a big Catholic family raised in an ethnic, working class neighborhood in Whitefish. My elders knew life in the old country and ingrained in us the privilege and opportunity of the vote, public education and union organizing. We kids were knocking on doors, stuffing envelopes and walking picket lines as long as I can remember. As an adult, I quickly learned that politics matter in our everyday lives and that public policy dictates winners and losers. I understand that our working class has lost ground. In the early 2000s while working at WEEL, (Working for Equality and Economic Liberation), I was a grassroots organizer fighting for economic equality and against budget cuts, and organizing people who live in poverty to get civically engaged. As a single mother who lived in poverty, I decided to run for office because I wanted to represent my community. I wanted to do what I could to help people. Montana’s legislature is a diverse group of people who weave together their experiences; my background and experiences make up an important segment of that tapestry.
What do you hope to accomplish at the legislature?
I hope to get the state budget back on track, restore cuts to health and human services and education and secure a structurally balanced, relevant revenue system. Also, protect Medicaid expansion ensuring that nearly 100 thousand Montanans keep their health insurance. Our community infrastructure of services has been decimated due to budget cuts. We have lost services that support the independence of adults and children who have physical and developmental disabilities, people who suffer from mental illness, and senior citizens. Dentures, mental health case management, incontinence supplies, meal prep, assistance with bathing, and other essential services have been reduced or eliminated. Providers like Helena Industries have closed and hundreds of workers have been laid off. Waiting lists for services are growing. In order to pay for essential services, we need political will and a revenue system that makes sense. Our state taxes people who earn about $15,000 the same as someone who makes millions. That is wrong. People who earn money from capital gains pay less in taxes than the Montanan who earns money from a paycheck.
Our budget reflects our values. Restore the community services infrastructure that supports the dignity of Montanans by allowing veterans and seniors to age in place with dignity, people who have disabilities to go to school, work, and live in the community, people who have mental illness to be supported in their homes and not in institutions, children and families to have opportunities and peace of mind that access to health care brings, and safety for our abused children and victims of domestic violence.
Who do I look to for inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my Mom, Patty Caferro, and Mother Theresa. My campaign colors are from Mother Theresa–that was my Mom’s idea. The reason I look to them for inspiration is because they were driven to help people, had their priorities straight, were not too good for the common chores, loved with their whole hearts, and were practical–all good traits to govern with.
How will you connect with voters in the district?
I have made a long-term connection and commitment to my constituents and am excited at this opportunity to continue connecting with people in my district. This is my seventh campaign and I find that connecting with constituents the old-fashioned way, by listening to them, works best. My favorite part of campaigning and holding office is the people I represent. They are the salt of the earth and I love them. I am so grateful for their warmth and willingness to open their homes and hearts and share their dreams and fears with me. Many pieces of legislation I carried were not my idea but came from constituents.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am grateful to my children and grandchildren who have supported me so that I may serve, as they sacrificed for the greater good. Thank you to Veterans and service men and women and their families. It is because of their sacrifice that I have the freedom to run for office. I am so grateful to have had the confidence and trust of my constituents since 2004. I am committed to public service and I am committed to serving the people of House District 81 for the long term, as evidenced by my history. I have sponsored work place policies, tax policies, health care programs, and education programs, all to help strengthen middle class families and provide upward mobility for families who are low-income. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services I have been successful at finding funding for essential services all while serving in the minority.