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Paula Hodges: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

 

Planned Parenthood Director Paula Hodges kept women's issues at the forefront during a contentious election year.

Planned Parenthood's new Public Policy & Advocacy Director Paula Hodges arrived in Rhode Island in December, 2011, and jumped straight into a high-profile position in her first year in Rhode Island, taking full advantage of the spotlight focused on women's health issues raised by Mitt Romney's candidacy. Using the momentum of the national debate over reproductive rights, Hodges put Planned

Parenthood back into the center of public discourse and influence in Rhode Island politics, and by doing so, gave Rhode Island's women a new and bold champion.

Hodges spotted her opportunity as early as March of this year, telling GoLocal that she planned to fine-tune her campaign through Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island as well as her state PAC. Hodges utilized the national "Women Are Watching" campaign as well as highly targeted maneuvers on local races. "I'm a certified voter file and data management ninja," she said, "and know how to make the data work for us and our candidates."

A force to be reckoned with

The outcome? "I think many progressive voters and activists in Rhode Island can agree that women were a force to be reckoned with up and down the ballot," Hodges summed up in remarks on RIFuture.org in November. "More so, that Planned Parenthood Action Fund was one of the most successful and strategic PACs, with a near perfect record on all the national races we played in—a true winner."

Rhode Island's Planned Parenthood was buzzing with activity this election cycle. According to Hodges, 100 new and veteran volunteers generated more than 26,000 educational calls over the course of 3 months, and supporters raised nearly $20,000 for Planned Parenthood's PAC. Further, Hodges fought  mandatory ultrasound legislation in Rhode Island this spring and helped identify progressives to run for office with partners like Ocean State Action, throwing more energy into the local movement.

A savvy political veteran of large advocacy groups in Missouri, a state 8 times the size of Rhode Island, Hodges realizes the advantage of her new, small, state. "I am constantly amazed and reminded just how tangible victories are in the Ocean State," she said. "We don’t have to raise $100,000 for a single State House seat and candidates really don’t campaign for 10 months. In fact you’re lucky if they’re building campaigns 10 weeks before the election."

Women can win in Rhode Island, Hodges says. So can progressives. "It takes a laser-beam focus, a clear message and a real grassroots strategy," she said. "At Planned Parenthood Votes! RI, we are positioned to do just that, especially when we work effectively in coalition.

For women, Hodges was a welcome ninja indeed on a hostile political landscape.

 

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