Politics unites, not divides, three generations of women

For a grandmother, mom and daughter working at the General Assembly, political service is a family business

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Three generations of women in the legislature from left: Amanda Spence

RALEIGH — For three women working at the North Carolina General Assembly, politics isn’t just the name of the trade — it’s a family business.Judy Lowe, the legislative assistant for Republican state Rep. Ted Davis, has worked for the legislature for 18 years, serving the same New Hanover district for well over a decade — even predating Davis. And after finding purpose and fulfillment in the job that has her assisting the advancement of legislation and helping citizens navigate government resources, she sparked an interest in her daughter and then granddaughter.It all began with Judy’s own aspirations many years ago. She had considered running for office in Worthington, Ohio — waiting for her family to be just the right age — when her husband’s job transferred their family to Raleigh. She didn’t know much about her new home state, but was still eager to serve when a neighbor told her about the legislative assistant positions at the General Assembly.”It was a perfect opportunity to learn a lot about a state that I had traveled through, but never spent any time in,” said Judy, sitting at a roundtable in Davis’ office with her daughter and granddaughter. “I think I have learned much more about the state than if I was doing anything else.”She began encouraging her daughter Anita Spence — who holds a degree in political science — to apply for the same job in a different office. In 2015, Anita came to work for then-freshman Rep. John Bradford of Mecklenburg.The role of a legislative assistant is not as partisan as one might think. Unlike other elected offices, state legislators often retain the “LA” that was in the job previously. Lowe has worked for three different members over the years and has remained with House District 19 for 14 years — allowing her to foster lasting relationships with the constituents she serves.”It covers a lot of detail, maybe more than someone on the outside might realize,” said Judy about the job that also involves scheduling and clerking committees. “But I find the thing that really captures my interest is constituent issues. I like to find out what I can do to help.”When people call their state-level representatives, they’ve often exhausted all of their other resources and are usually very thankful when they get the help they need.Recalling one constituent that she helped that now sends her and Bradford a Christmas card every year, Anita said constituent services is “kind of the softer side of things.”Amanda Spence, Anita’s oldest daughter, joined the duo full time last summer as a paid intern for Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union).”In high school, my grandma convinced me to do the Page programs. I did the House, Senate and Governor’s Page program, and that really sparked my interest in politics, and I decided to study political science at UNC Charlotte,” said Amanda who is a rising junior at the university.”Then my grandma had talked about openings around the General Assembly for internships — I thought it would be neat to work in the Senate, to get a different perspective since my mom and grandma are on the House side,” she said.But the women joke that for all the political enthusiasm they share, not everyone in the family is so keen on it.Anita has two daughters that are younger than Amanda, and Anita said, “They don’t even like it when we talk about the GA, because we go off on our own trails. They said, ‘You guys talk about it so much, I’m so over it.'””When I asked the 18-year-old to come down and page, she said, ‘No way,'” Judy chimed in. “They’ll take a completely different course.”But Amanda cherishes the political influence.”Somehow it got passed on to me, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said, “It’s sad going back to school and being out of the loop for seven or eight months.”The ladies don’t pal around that much due to conflicting work obligations, but they have shared invaluable experiences.”Last year, my mom and I stuck around for the last day of session and we stayed until 12:30 a.m. that night, but that was actually my favorite day,” recalled Amanda. “It was just a different atmosphere and [the senators and representatives] were having fun and cracking jokes instead of being super serious and they were willing to talk to interns and other people around the building.”Anita also remembered, “We were comparing notes — she was on the floor, and I was up in the

— and we were going back and forth about where we were in the process, and how late we thought we’d be here.”I mean, that’s fun to be able to share that,” she added.But Judy laughed about that particular late-night adventure.”You can tell who’s the oldest and goes home,” she said.In a time when politics often divides those around the dinner table, the Lowe-Spence women have found it has brought them closer.”It’s definitely special,” said Amanda, who is interested in lobbying on behalf of health care and disability issues after she graduates.”It’s probably the only time that it would ever be possible for my mom, grandma and I to work at the same place. So I’m just trying to take it in every day, and enjoy it while it lasts.”