Get to know... Melissa Kane, DTC chairwoman
But since taking the role, Kane has enjoyed “being a part of that team” through advocating for Democratic principles and candidates.
Growing up in New York City, Kane has always been interested in Democratic politics. Both her parents were Democrats and vocal in their beliefs. Her father served as a speechwriter for Democrat Abraham Ribicoff, the former governor of Connecticut.
“And I would say, for me, it’s very much about civil liberties and social justice, and I find that the Democratic Party really fits what I believe,” Kane said.
After graduating from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in international relations, Kane spent time fundraising for nonprofits, as a publicist in the music industry and freelance writing. When her family moved to Westport from New York City in 2002, she started a floral design business.
Always politically active in some capacity, like phone banking for the Clinton campaign in 1992 or driving people to the polls, Kane became drawn to town government when she advocated on behalf of her children’s preschool, A Child’s Place, in front of various town boards, including the Representative Town Meeting. She also joined the board of the Westport Public Library.
“In my experiences in lobbying for other organizations, I had a chance to get familiar with local government, and I thought it was very interesting,” Kane said.
Kane’s interest prompted her 2011 run for the RTM seat in District 3, where she earned the most votes of any candidate for RTM and “thoroughly enjoyed” going door-to-door, campaigning and getting to know her constituents. She joined the DTC that same year.
In 2013, Helen Garten chose Kane as her running mate for the first selectwoman ticket. Although they lost to First Selectman Jim Marpe and Second Selectman Avi Kaner, Kane was driven to do everything she could to improve the way the DTC ran campaigns and help mobilize more people going forward.
Kane became secretary of the DTC in 2014 and chairwoman in October. Although Hillary Clinton didn’t win the presidency, Kane said she was proud of the way the DTC stepped up and got the interest of a lot of people who hadn’t previously been involved in politics.
“Because of the unusual nature of this presidential election, a lot more people became involved. We were an office for Hillary for America for phone banking, so a lot of people, Westporters who had not necessarily been involved on a municipal level, had not been involved with the DTC, became involved, which was, I think, very exciting and actually important for where we are now,” Kane said.
“I felt good about the job we had done,” she added. “I felt very positive about the job we had done.”
The DTC put forth a significant amount of time into phone banking in New Hampshire for Clinton, and even made trips up to the Granite State to knock on doors. Clinton ended up winning New Hampshire narrowly, and Democrat Maggie Hassan barely squeaked by Republican Kelly Ayotte in the race for U.S. senator from New Hampshire.
Kane said the ground push they made in New Hampshire, coupled with the result, was encouraging.
Now that the election has come and gone, Kane feels it is more important than ever to focus their efforts on municipal and state races and who will seek to protect certain “civil liberties” that could be in jeopardy at a national level, she said.
The influx of interest from the DTC’s constituents, who want to help, provides Kane with a sense of duty to help them organize their passion into the local elections and advocating for issues important to them. Some of the DTC’s initiatives include: mobilizing people to help Democrat Foster Campbell in his run-off election for U.S. senator from Louisiana, and encouraging Democrats to support organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We want to give people real ways to channel their concern and make a difference,” Kane said.