When Elizabeth Mahoney was in sixth grade, she debated with a friend about Ted Kennedy and Mitt Romney in that year's Senate race; she argued Romney would be the better choice.
She's been with Mitt ever since.
In fact, the first non-local town election vote she cast was in the 2002 state Republican primary. It was for Mitt, for governor.
Mahoney was in Belmont the day Romney returned from the Olympics and was honored by the town; that day was seen as Mitt's return to politics.
"I guess I've been a fan of Romney's for a long time!"
The 2001 graduate will be seeing more of her fellow residents in the next fortnight as she travels to Tampa to take her seat with the Massachusetts delegation at the Republican National Convention, where she will represent Belmont, her State Committee district, and Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Mahoney, along with siblings Robert, Tara and Patrice, grew up in Belmont with their mom Anne Marie – a well-known political figure in town who is the current chairwoman of the Capital Budget Committee – and her late father Brian, a lifelong Belmont resident who as a U.S. Army Ranger was awarded the Silver and Bronze Star medals for his service in Vietnam.
After graduating with a degree in government, Elizabeth Mahoney now works for a small nonprofit which runs a scholarship program for Afghan lawyers to earn a degree at U.S. law schools and then return to help improve their legal system.
Mahoney has worked on three political campaigns – including Romney's in 2008 for President in 2008 – and for Romney's political action committee, the Free & Strong America PAC. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee and the Belmont Republican Town Committee where Mitt, his wife Ann, and their son, Tagg, are all members.
Belmont Patch asked Mahoney about what it's like to be a Republican in 'progressive' Belmont:
Belmont Patch: What is the reaction when you tell fellow residents your political leanings and that you're attending the Republican Convention?
Mahoney: The reaction I generally get from people when I tell them I'm a Republican is a sort of curiosity. People are respectful, but in this town (and this state), I just don't think people know that many Republicans. And certainly not that many who are actively engaged in Republican politics.
Patch: Is there any one event, person or influence that prompted your choice of political party? Have you changed political parties?
Mahoney: I would say the people who had the most influence on my becoming a Republican were my parents. Growing up, there were frequent political discussions at the kitchen table and they both are/were politically conservative. When I was in high school, I also used to read my father's Weekly Standard and that really solidified for me that the Republican Party was the one that most represented my own political beliefs.
Patch: What has been your evolution in the Republican Party?
Mahoney: I had been involved with town politics through my mother's various campaigns, but I first became involved in Republican politics as a freshman at Harvard. I joined the Harvard Republican Club – yes, there are Republicans at Harvard!
At the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans convention that year, I was impressed by a candidate for Congress that I heard speak. I spent that summer of 2002 interning for his campaign in Chelmsford and from that point on, I was hooked on politics.
I went on to intern with other campaigns and the Massachusetts Republican Party in college, then went to work for the MassGOP after graduating, before joining Kerry Healey's campaign for governor, and on from there.
Patch: How did you become a convention delegate?
Mahoney: I was elected an at-large delegate to the convention by the Massachusetts Republican State Committee. A group of Romney supporters joined together to run and be nominated as a slate.
This will be my second convention, but first as a delegate. In 2008, I was working for Gov. Romney's political action committee – the Free and Strong America PAC – and attended the convention in Minnesota.
Patch: What are you expecting in Tampa?
Mahoney: I am keeping my fingers crossed for good weather! As a delegate, my duties at the convention will be to vote for Gov. Romney and his choice for vice-president, as well as to participate in the other business of the convention (such as voting for the Republican Party platform).
I imagine there might be some interest from the media in my representing Belmont. I am very proud to be representing our town to the convention. I am curious to see if there is a delegate representing Romney's birthplace in Michigan. I hope to meet that person if there is.
Patch: Talk a little bit about Mitt Romney. What's he like as a person, one-on-one.
Mahoney: I believe the first time I met Gov. Romney was when I was interning for the Massachusetts Republican Party in college. In person, he is somewhat different from his public persona; he is very personable and not at all 'stiff' as some people perceive him. He is a generous person with a good sense of humor. OK, perhaps his sense of humor is a bit corny! And when you see him interact with [his wife, Ann], it is clear she is his everything. It is very sweet.
Patch: How has Romney's candidacy or his personal relationship with you affected your view of this presidential election?
Mahoney: I support Romney because I believe he can get our nation's economy back on track. He understands both business and government and has had successes in both fields. In particular, his turning a budget deficit into a surplus in Massachusetts is just the sort of experience our country needs. He is a leader who has proven that he can work 'across the aisle' to get things done. I truly believe that he would be an excellent president.