Like so many Americans, the most recent presidential campaign and election spurred me to action and to engage more deeply in the topics and policies than I had previously. And like so many, I was surprised and saddened at the election results, though my surprise was a symptom of how insulated I had allowed myself to become.
Frankie Aleppo felt similarly in the aftermath of election night and decided to form a movement: Good Girls Resist. The Facebook community page quickly picked up steam and Aleppo leveraged that momentum to seek out candidates to run for special elections across the country. One seat that really interested her was the SC house seat recently vacated by Mick Mulvaney, now President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget cabinet appointee.
Heavily gerrymandered in 2012, South Carolina’s fifth congressional district has voted Democratic every year since 1883 until Mulvaney in 2010, and Aleppo seeks to turn the district blue once again. To find her candidate, Aleppo took to Facebook and outlined what she was looking for: Democratic, enthusiastic and charismatic – all of which she found in Alexis Frank.
Frank, a military veteran and mother of two, saw Aleppo’s viral video looking for candidates in five special elections, one that just happened to be in Frank’s backyard of York County. And even though she had never considered politics before, she dove right in. Aleppo and Frank have been campaigning ever since. In speaking with Frank, it is clear what Aleppo sees in Frank. She is engaging and open, friendly and compelling, and though she openly admits that her handle on policy pieces sometimes needs work, she is not afraid to voice an unpopular opinion once her mind is made up.
In a crowded field with two other Democratic candidates set for the primary on May 2nd, I asked Frank what she wanted to impart to her children in the event she doesn’t move forward. Her message was one that resonated with me deeply. She wants her children and especially her daughter to know that there is no “right time” to get involved and make a difference, our power is in our collective voices, and being a part of the political machine isn’t a prerequisite to run for elected office. She balked, too, when asked if she should start with something “less ambitious” like school board or city council. “If this is the seat that is open, why wait?”
Frank is tired of the refrain, “the future is female.” She counters that the future is now, and the time to sit on the sidelines as an observer is one we as a nation can no longer afford. She and Aleppo represent a clear shift in American politics, as much a reaction to the current administration as they are invested in creating a space that prioritizes and embraces diversity and social justice. Her campaign motto is Protect What You Love, a bit of a cipher onto which potential supporters can project just about any issue that matters to them. And while she works on building her platform, she makes herself readily available to attend engagements, rallies and town halls – a stark contrast to the many elected officials currently skipping theirs.
Alexis Frank may be the underdog with established local politicians vying for a contested seat but she is emblematic of a wave of women that is rising in response to an administration seemingly hell-bent to relegate women, people of color, and many other minority groups back into obscurity. If nothing else, Frank’s campaign shows that we will not be silenced so easily.