POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

GOP Italian-American Women Set to Make History

by David Trumbull -- October 8, 2010

Massachusetts political culture has not been favorable to women running for statewide office, at least compared to other states. Although about half of the States in the Union have elected a woman as Chief Executive, Massachusetts is not one of them. The closest we came to a female Governor was when Jane Swift became Acting Governor upon the resignation of Governor A. Paul Cellucci.

Three women have been elected Lieutenant Governor, one Democrat, Evelyn Murphy (1986) and two Republicans Swift in 1998 and Kerry Healey in 2002.

Two other women have held statewide office in Massachusetts. Martha Coakley, the only woman currently holding statewide office, was elected Attorney General in 2006. She knows defeat in a statewide effort, having lost to Republican Scott Brown in the contest for U.S. Senator earlier this year. Shannon P. O’Brien was elected Treasurer in 1998 to succeed Joe Malone, but she was defeated, by Republican Mitt Romney, when she tried for Governor in 2002.

In November the Republicans hope to return the Treasurer’s office to GOP and feminine hands. When she is elected Treasurer, Republican Karyn Polito will be the first Italian-American woman to serve in that office.

Karyn’s great-grandfather, Francesco Polito, immigrated to the United States from Sicily in 1909, arriving at Ellis Island on Columbus Day. He settled in the North End of Boston and started a successful family business that continues to operate today. Karyn's commitment to the community  was recognized in 2009 when Karyn was chosen to be “Outstanding Italian” Grand Marshal of the Worcester Columbus Day Parade.

The GOP plan actually is to make history twice by electing to statewide office two Italian-American women on November 2nd.

People often ask about the “Z” in Mary Z. Connaughton. Well, as Connaughton, our Republican candidate for Auditor says: “I was born Mary Gina Zarrilli and when I got married, I kept my maiden name as my middle name. The Zarrilli’s come from Calitri, in the Campania region of southern Italy. For what seemed to be a good part of my childhood, I shared a room with my grandma Gina, who came to this country through Ellis Island in the early 1920’s. I am proud to belong to the Sons of Italy.” Mary Z. will also be the first woman ever elected Auditor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when Republicans score our big victories on Election Day.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]