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Politics & Government

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams To Be Sworn Into Office

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A swearing in ceremony comes today in Washington. Democrat Alma Adams won a special election to a vacant House seat in North Carolina. Because it's vacant, she starts work right away, not waiting for the new Congress.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And when she takes the oath, she'll be the 100th woman in Congress. That's 100 out of 535 in the House and Senate. That's far from equal. Still, it's a new high for the number of women in the House.

INSKEEP: Adams' 12th District in North Carolina includes parts of Charlotte, Winston-Salem and other cities. And we reached her as she prepared to leave that district for Washington.

Have you already received phone calls from some of the other 99?

REPRESENTATIVE ALMA ADAMS: (Laughter). I have. And I have along the way, actually, since the primary because, you know, I was in a seven-way primary. And I was the only woman in that race.

INSKEEP: Have you received calls from any of the Republicans who will be in pretty much total control of the House of Representatives?

ADAMS: I don't believe - well - you know, I don't think so.

INSKEEP: Was it strange, on election night, to be celebrating your win - and you won; you get to celebrate - but then to be looking at the television and see Democrats losing key races across North Carolina and across the country?

ADAMS: Yes, sir, very depressing. Any loss is always difficult, you know. But you have to be prepared for that as well and learn the lessons from those. And I think that turnout was really the key to this election.

INSKEEP: Why don't you describe the 12th District that you're going to represent for those who aren't familiar with it? What kind of place is it? What kind of people are in it?

ADAMS: Well, it's a very unique district. There are a lot of commonalities in this district. You know, it's gerrymandered, of course. We see it spanning over six counties.

INSKEEP: When you say gerrymandered, I suppose we should clarify for people. You're saying that in North Carolina, a Republican legislature made arrangements so that Democrats would be crowded into fewer congressional districts quite thickly. And then Republicans would have a good shot at winning more congressional districts. That's what happened, and you've got a...

ADAMS: Well...

INSKEEP: Democratic district. Is that right?

ADAMS: That's pretty much what happened. As a matter of fact, in the redistricting, we have what we call stacking and packing African-Americans. I mean, this district was packed that way. You know, African-Americans needed to have influence and be able to impact this process all over this state. And not just be located in one or two areas. But, you know, it is what it is right now. And so we're going to work to make sure that the people are served and that they're served well.

INSKEEP: You know, one other vital issue does occur to me that I think I would be remiss if I did not ask about. I have read in The North Carolina Press that you have made something of a major issue about wearing hats in the House of Representatives. What's that about?

ADAMS: Well, first of all, I have not made a major issue out of it.

INSKEEP: I'm joking...

ADAMS: The...

INSKEEP: I'm joking.

ADAMS: Oh, OK. Well, I think we need - I need to be clear about that because I don't want it to be a major issue. It's not what I have on my head. It's what I have in my head...

INSKEEP: OK.

ADAMS: That's important. Wearing hats - I've worn them for practically - just about all of my life. I have 900. So, you know, I have worn them for a long time. It's a part of my wardrobe. I started wearing hats because I was sick a lot. And I remember my grandmother telling me, cover your noggin; you'll stay healthy. And I do know that there's a regulation that they have that goes back to 1800s, that you don't have your head covered. Now, of course, that's probably a rule that was written for men because it's always been appropriate for women to have their heads covered inside.

INSKEEP: Oh, but men are supposed to remove their hats out of respect. And they wore hats in the 1800s.

ADAMS: Right. Absolutely, absolutely.

INSKEEP: That's right.

ADAMS: But I'll still be able to wear my hats. You know, the floor is not the only place I'm going to be.

INSKEEP: Well, Congresswoman-elect Alma Adams, tip of the hat to you.

ADAMS: Well, thank you. And I tip my hat to you and to all of the citizens of this 12th District and throughout North Carolina.

INSKEEP: She is the 100th woman elected to Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 11, 2014 at 11:00 PM CST
We say that a Republican Legislature was responsible for the gerrymandering that created North Carolina's 12th Congressional District. It was actually a Democratic-controlled Legislature that did so.