Linda Smith (American politician)
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 3rd district
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1999
|Preceded by||Jolene Unsoeld|
|Succeeded by||Brian Baird|
July 26, 1950 |
La Junta, Colorado
|Religion||Assemblies of God|
Linda Smith (born July 16, 1950 in La Junta, Colorado) is a member of the Republican Party who represented Washington's 3rd congressional district from 1995 to 1999 and was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1998, losing to incumbent Democrat Patty Murray. After leaving politics, Linda Smith founded Shared Hope International, a nonprofit organization to rescue and restore women and children in crisis. Since its creation, Smith has worked around the world and within the United States on behalf of those who have been victimized through sex trafficking.
Early and personal life
Smith grew up in a working class home. Her father abandoned the family and her mother remarried a mechanic (who went on to have a long career with the railroad), and in 1966 moved the family to Vancouver, Washington. Linda has an older sister, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers. In high school, she had part time jobs as a fruit picker and a day-care aide. She later recalled, “I felt like by 17, I had had more lives than most people." Linda was known by her family to be a little "dramatic." She was 24 years old when her mother died of cancer, leaving her two younger brothers at home. Her step father remarried a few months later.
In 1968, she married Vern Smith, a young locomotive engineer, shortly before the age of 18, and they raised two children. She became the manager of a number of independent tax offices in Southern Washington. She currently lives in Vancouver with her husband, and has two children and six grandchildren.
Smith began her political career in a special election in 1983 when she defeated a Democratic Party incumbent to win a seat in the Washington House of Representatives. In 1987, she moved up to the state Senate, giving Republicans control of that chamber, and remained there until her supporters began a September 1994 write-in campaign to elect her to Washington's 3rd congressional district. In spite of being dubbed the "Hazel Dell housewife", Smith began a 19-day long grassroots campaign that resulted in her defeating the only Republican candidate listed on the primary ballot. Having secured a ballot line as the Republican nominee through her September write-in campaign, she went on to defeat liberal three-term Democrat Jolene Unsoeld in November. She narrowly won reelection in 1996, defeating Democrat Brian Baird by only 113 votes.
Smith was known for her staunch anti-abortion stance and her maverick tendencies, such as opposing the Balanced Budget Amendment, supporting campaign finance reform, and most notably of all, being one of 9 House Republicans to vote against confirming House Speaker Newt Gingrich in early 1997. She also had a reputation for opposing gay rights and viewed homosexuality as a "morally unfit inclination." Giving up her House seat in 1998, Smith ran for Washington's U.S. Senate seat. She defeated former King County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Bayley to face sitting U.S. Senator Patty Murray, only the third Senate race between two women. Many observers expected the election to be close, though Murray won by a 58%-to-42% margin.
In the fall of 1998, while still a member of the U.S. Congress, Linda Smith traveled to Falkland Road in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, which is one of the worst brothel districts in the world. The hopeless faces of desperate women and children forced into prostitution compelled her to found Shared Hope International (SHI), a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating sex-trafficking. Since Smith's retirement from Congress, she has devoted all her energy to this cause, traveling around the world to create partnerships, interview survivors, and raise awareness. SHI collaborates with local groups to fund homes and shelters where women and children can live without time limits. These Villages of Hope have a holistic approach to recovery, including education and job skills training through the Women’s Investment Network (WIN) program.
War Against Trafficking Alliance
To build momentum in the international anti-trafficking movement, Smith also founded the War Against Trafficking Alliance (WATA) in January 2001. WATA coordinates both regional and international efforts necessary to combat sex trafficking. In February 2003, WATA co-sponsored a World Summit with the U.S. Department of State, which brought together non-government and government leaders from 114 nations, all demonstrating a sustained commitment to prosecuting trafficking, providing assistance to victims, and building regional strategies to protect the vulnerable from the sex trade. In 2005, WATA was invited to participate, along with UNIFEM, in the first ASEAN conference to address child sex tourism in East and Southeast Asia.
With a grant from the U.S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Linda Smith and her team have worked in the field conducting research in Jamaica, the Netherlands, Japan, and the United States in order to reveal the sophisticated business model behind sex trafficking, exposing the buyers who increase demand and the traffickers who supply the victims. This extensive research led to SHI’s release of the DEMAND. report and documentary in 2007.
Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
In response to the findings from the DEMAND. report, since 2006 Smith and Shared Hope International have partnered with Anti-Trafficking Task Forces in ten U.S. cities with funding from the U.S Department of Justice, to identify and provide services to American victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST). The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children, also released by SHI, compiled all of the information obtained throughout four years of research in America. It examines the governmental and nongovernmental efforts and gaps in addressing child sex trafficking in the United States.
After over a decade of undercover investigations, extensive research and conducting thousands of survivor interviews, Smith herself was “shocked” by what was revealed. In 2009, Smith released a book titled Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children, which explores the traumas endured by young girls who are forced into the commercial sex industry.
As an expert on international and domestic trafficking, Smith has spoken out against the trafficking of women and children in international forums such as the World Conference on Trafficking in Vienna as well as testifying at a Congressional Hearing on the International Violence Against Women Act along with Ambassador Melanee Verveer and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman. Smith opened a panel discussion at the Congressional Human Trafficking Briefing on Capitol Hill in June 2009, addressing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. At the Helsinki Commission Hearing in 2006, Smith testified about the Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in America. Smith has also been featured on televised programs such as Dr. Phil and The O’Reilly Factor, in addition to numerous other media appearances on these issues. In 2009, Smith won a Soroptimist Making a Difference for Women Award, which honors women who have worked to improve the lives of women and girls through their professional and/or volunteer work.
For Further Reading
Linda Smith, Renting Lacy: A Story of America’s Prostituted Children (Shared Hope International, 2009) ISBN 0-9765594-6-3
- Linda Smith (American politician) at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- “An Interview with Michelle Clark,” an article from theotherjournal.com, by Andy Barnes, January 12, 2004. http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=38#
- http://www.sharedhope.org/files/DEMAND.pdf Demand report
- http://www.sharedhope.org/what/enddemand3.asp DEMAND. documentary
- http://www.sharedhope.org/dmst/documents/SHI%20National%20Report_without%20cover.pdf National Report
- 1998 Race for U.S. Senate
- Patty Murray (D) (inc.), 58%
- Linda Smith (R), 42%
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 3rd congressional district
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for United States Senator from Washington