The Congressional Women’s Softball Game has a bit of a fanatic following this year beyond the dedicated members of Congress, female journalists of the Capitol press corps and their long-suffering families and friends.
Two passionate young women — Eve Zhurbinskiy, 17, and Lauren Waksman, 19 — will be traveling from states away to cheer on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of their political heros. The close friends will also be meeting in person for the first time.
Waksman, a freshman at Philadelphia’s Temple University, is originally from Bucks County, Pa. She is a pretty passionate Democrat. Her Twitter handle is @MovesLikeBiden. She live-tweeted, with much capitalization and references to tears, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania.
Waksman’s parents are both Republicans, though her father is the more passionate conservative of the couple. In fact, he took his daughter to the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference.
It was during that trip, Waksman said, that father and daughter met, and were sort of disappointed by, Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., after they ran into her at the Woodley Park Chipotle. Noem’s office says the congresswoman wasn’t at the fast-food restaurant. But Waksman remembers it differently.
“[My dad] was really excited about her speech,” Waksman told CQ Roll Call. She says her dad approached the congresswoman, but maybe Noem was having a bad day, Waksman posits. The lawmaker blew them off and the incident still comes up in @MovesLikeBiden tweets.
Waksman and Zhurbinskiy, a high-school senior from Scotch Plains, N.J., discovered each other on Tumblr during the inauguration. The young women connected over their deep knowledge of Congress, particularly their love of Democratic politicians.
“Quite a while ago, me and my friends decided to learn about Joe Biden for whatever reason,” Zhurbinskiy said. “And we were reading about his life. We learned about how he overcame so much and how he had lost his wife and his daughter. How he had gone on to achieve so much with the Violence Against Women Act, like how he got to the Obama administration and implemented the stimulus bill and oversaw the Iraq pullout and all of that and we were like: ‘Wow. What a great guy!’”
From there, she said, “It kind of snowballed into this whole thing. [Biden] overcame so much ... me and my friends were like, ‘Wow, if he could overcome all of that, like, we can really do whatever we want to do as well.’”
It was the Violence Against Women Act that turned the two women on to Gillibrand.
“Basically, we were like, ‘Wow, [female politicians] are really cool, and especially Kirsten Gillibrand, too. She’s a really strong role model for women to get into politics and to encourage young women leaders,” Zhurbinskiy said.
Zhurbinskiy is also a chess champion — she’s ranked 36th for females under 18 and 73rd overall for U.S. women — and said her experiences with the game have fed her interest in politics.
“All of this isn’t as impressive as it may sound, because sadly the ratio of men to women in American chess is about 15:1. That’s really what taught me a lot about sexism when I was younger, and how it’s so important to get more women involved — which is something that carried over to me wanting to pursue a future in politics,” she said.
“Gillibrand ... she’s just like an iconic woman that I want as a president,” Waksman told CQ Roll Call “She’s just ... I agree with her on about everything.”
Waksman and Zhurbinskiy both plan to pursue careers in politics, on the campaign and the governing side. Both plan to eventually run for office. Zhurbinskiy has her sights set on the Senate and then perhaps the presidency, while Waksman would be content with stopping at the Senate.
Waksman has promised to be Zhurbinskiy’s vice presidential running mate when and if her candidacy gets off the ground.
Waksman is also responsible for drawing up a petition on Change.org to encourage her parents to let her go to the Congressional Women’s Softball Game and cheer on her idol.
“They barely know about the petition,” she told us. “I posted it on Facebook and then my dad yelled at me and told me to take it down. I don’t know. We’re supposed to go on vacation [to Ocean City, Md.,] that week. Now he’s letting me go apparently. ... I don’t know. They think I’m crazy.”
The elder Waksman will gamely accompany his daughter when she meets her friend Zhurbinskiy and another friend, Shannon Aber, 16, in D.C. for the first time.
The girls are stoked and have drawn signs supporting Gillibrand (their pick for the 2016 presidential race), as well as Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., (their dream 2024 presidential ticket).