HARTFORD, CT – Greek-Americans have been making strides in politics over the past few years, and perhaps even ahead of the national curve, women are keeping pace with the men.
Such is the case of Themis Klarides, who this month became the first ever female Republican leader in Connecticut’s House of Representatives.
A graduate of Trinity College and Quinnipiac University School of Law, Klarides – whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Mytilene – has enjoyed a steady rise in Connecticut politics. First elected to that state’s House in 1998, Klarides became the Deputy Leader eight years later and now, after another eight years, has emerged as that governing body’s top Republican. Her predecessor, Larry Cafero, who did not seek reelection as House Leader, told the Hartford Courant that “Klarides’ organizational skills, interpersonal relationships and ‘tough as nails’ attitude will serve her well in her new role.”
“I was always interested in government and how politics works,” Klarides explained to TNH, about why she pursued a political career. “Current events and civics were things that I always found interesting and important for the public to follow, and topics that students should be immersed in. When the House seat came open, I was approached by friends who said this was something that I should think about. I did, and decided to make a go of it.” And now, she has ascended to her party’s highest House post.
Recently described by the Hartford Courant as a “proud Greek-American,” Klarides told TNH about the Greeks in her state: “We have a very robust Greek community in Connecticut. The church we belong to has members that travel from all over the region and state to attend services.”
HER POLITICS IS LOCAL
If Klarides’ political star continues to rise, a Congressional bid seems like a logical next step – but she gave TNH no indication of any future plans for national office. She is entirely focused on her state. “My only plans for the future are running the House Republican caucus and shaping an agenda that best suits Connecticut,” she told TNH, “particularly the middle class in Connecticut that is struggling. Specifically, “Connecticut’s finances and the budget that we enact drive the issues that will come before us as legislators. The broad topics that we will tackle – safe streets, good schools, a heathy environment, an efficient and open government that all people can access – will be shaped by how we can pay for them. We have to prioritize and make tough decisions. Transportation will emerge as a key topic of debate because our roads and bridges are in tough shape. We have the largest Republican House caucus in two decades and that will put pressure on Democrats to not enact an extreme agenda.”
TO CONGRESS: GOVERN
Klarides sees a clear difference between state legislators and their national counterparts on Capitol Hill. “We differ from the denizens of Washington,” she told TNH “in that we are answerable to our constituents. We have to go home every day and see the people we represent in our towns. We are not in this for fame or fortune. It is a job we have been elected to do for them.”
Following big electoral gains this past November, what would Klarides like to see her fellow Republicans in Washington do with their newfound resurgence? In a word, govern. “Put some legislation on the President’s desk,” she says. “If he vetoes it, so be it. The fallout will be on his head. We have the largest House caucus in Washington since 1928, and a sizeable one in the Senate. My only advice to Congress is, get together and get some work done.”