America is in need of some leadership–at least according to Mallory Hagan.
Hagan is the Democratic candidate for Alabama’s 3rd district in their upcoming House elections, but most people know her as the former Miss America. Hagan was crowned Miss America in 2013 as Miss New York 2012, but says the title burdened her with certain stereotypes that affected her political life.
“Every day, when I go and speak to community members and I present myself on national media, I make sure I combat that stereotype from every angle,” Hagan said. “I’m very conscious of the things I say and how I say them and what I potentially am playing into.”
The year after the crowning, Hagen spent time lobbying congress for the prevention and awareness of child sexual abuse. She was part of a team that helped restore funding to child advocacy centers and was a lobbyist for Erin’s Law, which would require public schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program.
“People on both sides of the aisle are excited to have someone they can believe in to really do what it is that they say they’re going to do, to actually represent them and listen to them and be a fresh face in Washington,” Hagan said.
When initially approached by people in her community and district, Hagen was reluctant to run for any office; however, that soon changed after being an anchor for WLTZ-TV in Georgia and Alabama and experienced daily news first hand.
“We are in dire need of people in our country whom our children can look up to,” Hagan said. “I just don’t think we have that right now.”
She said the small number of young women serving in congress, coupled with this need for leadership, made her decide that now was the time to run.
The district Hagan is hoping to represent has historically voted Republican. In the 2016 election, the district elected Trump by 33 points, 5.3 points over the statewide 27.7 point margin. During the special election for senator in 2017, only five of the 13 counties in her district voted for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, who narrowly defeated Roy Moore by a margin of 1.5 points. Her opponent is Mike Rogers, the incumbent Republican representative who has represented the third district since 2003.
“I have a pretty solid plan of action and I am excited and I’m energized, and so is the Democratic Party, which is something we haven’t seen in this state in several decades,” Hagan said. “People are ready to see change happen and people are excited about the candidates we have on the democratic party and so I’m not concerned, I’m thrilled.”
Hagan’s platform is focused on leadership in order to reach the supporters of two politicians known for their misogynistic remarks, Moore and Trump. She says she knows women who voted for Trump and support his policy views, but don’t support his crass comments or his leadership style. She often contextualizes his statements by associating his speech with things parents wouldn’t allow their children to say.
“How would you feel about that, and if it’s not something that you would allow your son or daughter to say to you, why are we not holding our president to that same standard?” Hagan said. “Why are we not holding our representatives to those same standards?”
As a former Miss America winner and a woman, Hagen experiences misogyny and patriarchy on a consistent basis. The most notable examples during the campaign have been questions posed to her about her marital status and why she does not have children.
“To me, that is an entirely irrelevant question to the concept of my being qualified to run for office,” Hagan said.
Her office has also received criticism about the outfits and shoes she wears.
“People call my campaign manager and say, ‘Those shoes won’t fly in blank county,’ or, ‘That dress was too tight for that event.’ Just stuff like that where I sort of play into these expectations of what a women should be and how she should dress,” Hagan said. “Just things that men definitely don’t have to deal with on the campaign trail.”
Hagan made national headlines in 2017 after being part of the movement to suspend the CEO of Miss America, Sam Haskell, after discovering emails from Haskell that included derogatory comments about her body and other former Miss Americas.
Beyond this criticism, Hagan is preparing for her potential new job on Capitol Hill. Health care and campaign reform are the main issues she wants to address if elected. Hagan believes the current healthcare system is failing many people. US News and World Report reported Alabama had the highest infant mortality rate since 2008 in 2017. Hagan wants to address this alarming statistic, as well as maternal mortality rates in Alabama.
“Many people are very worried about the future of our healthcare system, so that’s what’s important to me,” Hagan said.
Hagan was recently endorsed by End Citizens United, a Political Action Committee funded by grassroots donors. She hopes to see campaign finance reform so candidates use their energy to gain votes instead of simply raising a large amount of money for advertising. After the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Hagan is hoping this signifies a shift in how people run for office.
“What we need from our representatives are people who are willing to get out and work,” Hagan said. “Alexandria did that work and that’s what I’ve been doing, too.”
Hagan is also focused on bringing industries to Alabama, because she believes there’s a lot of opportunity in the state.
“I think that’s a huge, huge way for us to improve our quality of life and our education system and also, of course, bring in jobs,” Hagan said.
Regardless of whether Hagan wins in November, she is planning to involve herself with IGNITE. IGNITE is an organization that aims to include high school seniors and college-aged women engaged political process. The organization is currently headquartered in Huntsville, AL.
“I look forward to being a part of working with them on that so that we have more young women in Alabama engaged and politically active,” Hagan said.
Photos by Valenci Adair