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Long-time Democratic activist Midge Costanza died Tuesday in San Diego after a long battle with cancer.  She was 77.

A strong advocate for gay and women's rights, Midge was best known nationally for her service as the highest ranking woman in the Carter Administration.  Upon moving to San Diego in 1990, she became involved in state and local politics, managing campaigns for Barbara Boxer for Senate in 1992 and Kathleen Brown for governor in 1994.  As to be expected from someone born in New York state to Sicilian parents, she was feisty, dynamic, and colorful and was a popular speaker. As part of her efforts to get more women and young people involved in politics and with social causes, she established the Midge Costanza Institute for the Study of Politics and Public Policy.

Midge had been on life support for the last week.  I hope that she knew that HCR had passed; she would have been pleased by that.

I first met Midge in 1992 when she was coordinating Barbara Boxer's first run for Senate.  It was my first involvement in politics, but it was not with the Boxer campaign.  Rather, it was with the California Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), the local affiliate of NARAL dedicated to dealing with state legislative races.  We leased an office that was in the same suite as the Boxer campaign.  I went over alone the morning we were supposed to move into the office and started looking around.  What Midge saw was this male snooping around and trying to get into the office of an abortion rights group.  She came over and confronted me and asked what I was doing.  I tried to explain but she wasn't buying it.  Fortunately, a CARAL member who was also working for her showed up and vouched for me.  Years later, Midge told me, maybe kiddingly, that she thought I was from the CIA, sent to spy on her and the Boxer campaign.

We have lost a great crusader for the causes that most of us believe in, ranging from gay rights to reproductive rights to social justice.  I'm honored that I had a chance to meet Midge and be inspired by her over the years.  She will be missed.

Originally posted to EWembley on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 02:09 AM PDT.

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