San Francisco in 1984 offered extraordinary opportunities for many individuals, but none more so than for Mary V. Hughes. As a young woman lawyer, Hughes was eager to explore the emerging field of political consulting; she grabbed at that opportunity and ran with it.
Over the next 24 years, the nine Bay Area counties sent six women to the House of Representatives, two to the U.S. Senate, and celebrated the appointment of the first woman Speaker of the House. Hughes planned and managed several of these campaigns and advised many other women in their quest for political acknowledgement.
In 1989, Hughes co-founded Staton Hughes, a strategic communications and political consulting firm. In addition, she managed the campaign of the first open lesbian elected judge in the U.S. and the first woman superintendent of California schools. In 2006 she advised Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in her campaign for a House seat. That same year EMERGE, a national campaign training program that prepares Democratic women to run for public office, named Hughes their Woman of the Year.
Hughes is a strategist and analyst who leads a bi-partisan team of researchers studying women’s campaigns for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation’s series “Keys to the Governors Office." She is also a contributor to “Win the Right Way,” a collection of essays on political strategy.
Hughes is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and Mt. Holyoke College, which she credits with kindling her feminist activism. She lives with her husband, State Senator Joe Simitian, in Palo Alto, California.