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Elise Stefanik. Photo: Stefanik Campaign, via <a href=""></a>
Elise Stefanik. Photo: Stefanik Campaign, via

What Elise Stefanik's Harvard writings tell us about her politics

If Elise Stefanik goes to Washington, D.C., next year as the North Country's Representative -- and that's still a big if, given the big primary challenge from fellow Republican Matt Doheny and the Democratic campaign now forming around Aaron Woolf -- she'll make the journey eight years after leaving Harvard, where she studied at the Institute of Politics, serving as the student vice president of the Institute, and working as an editorial writer for the Harvard Crimson.

In the years since, Stefanik, now just 29, has worked hard to advance the policies and ideas of other Republican politicians, serving most notably under George W. Bush and Paul Ryan. But during her time at Harvard she wrote essays and gave interviews that offer some insight into her own values, her personality and her own political concerns (get to know today's Stefanik here.) Here are the big takeaways.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

First, Stefanik was already laser-beam focused on politics and identified strongly as a Republican during her Harvard years. But there's no evidence in the essays readily available online that she was particularly ideological, though she's now favored by many Tea Party and Conservative activists. At Harvard, one of her most visible positions was an effort to cultivate more women for political roles, both on campus and in society writ large.

When former Democratic Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now the U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, was named to head the Institute of Politics, Stefanik praised the choice. "I think it's very helpful to attract new women to leadership positions if you have a female director," Stefanik told a Crimson reporter. In an essay that she wrote the same year, Stefanik complained that "Harvard campus' political organizations overwhelmingly underrepresent women."

She went on to write passionately about the "inequity in gender representation" in America and the ghettoizing of women in female-only organizations. "Though there is undoubtedly a place for campus women's groups, it must not come at the cost of perpetuating the idea that women can only be executives or leaders of these single-sex groups," Stefanik argued.

Stefanik also co-authored an essay with Shaheen urging college students, men as well as women, to become more engaged in politics following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The essay raised pointed questions about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2000, which "decided the outcome of a presidential race" and the two women went on to note that "growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq contributed to a renewed political engagement on the part of students."

In another essay, written independently, Stefanik praised bipartisan effort of student Democrats and Republicans on campus to show support for Iraq War veterans. "The events of 'Support Our Troops' Week are not focused upon the foreign policy of President Bush, the role of ROTC on campus or support for the war in Iraq," she noted. Rather the week was "designed by both campus Democrats and Republicans to express tribute to our countrymen—many of whom are our age—who sacrifice their lives to serve."

Stefanik most scathing article – titled "Political Vomit" – blasted protesters who tried to disrupt a recruiting fair held on campus by US intelligence agencies. But not all of her writings involved politics. One Crimson essay addressed the loneliness of undergraduate life and implored students to be kind to one another. "Harvard can be daunting, so it never hurts to have pleasant, if passing, interactions. Simply put, when walking by a familiar face, just say hey," Stefanik wrote.

In another article, Stefanik, who remains single, waxed philosophical about her favorite love songs and questioned whether career-driven Harvard students are missing out on some of the fun of young adulthood and relationships. "One of the greatest philosophers of our time, John Lennon, obviously thinks we are," she wrote. "He'd rather have us forget everything else—because, really, 'love is all you need.' So why not allow ourselves to succumb to this sheer bliss? Find those irresistible puppy eyes that inevitably lead to puppy love."

Stefanik moved to her parents' seasonal home in Willsboro after leaving Paul Ryan's 2012 vice presidential campaign. In the months since, she has described herself as a "big tent" conservative, with a center-right political brand. That may do well in the moderate North Country. Democrats and some Conservatives have tried to paint her as more ideological, more of a true "movement" or "tea party" candidate.

But as Stefanik continues to find her own voice on the campaign trail, these writings seem to hint at more centrist, moderate and even bipartisan instincts.

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