In 2001 Pat Awada was approached to run for Congress, but decided against it for several reasons, including her unwillingness to stress the family by splitting time between Washington, D.C. and Eagan. Instead, she decided to run for state auditor, a position that more closely paralleled her interests in local government finance. At the same time, she recognized that she could not take her political career to a statewide level and continue to grow her business. So, after the election, she sold half her business interests. Awada recounts the decision while tying her daughter Katie’s skates at the Eagan Ice Arena. “It’d be better if I told you I did it for the kids. But I didn’t.” She pauses and tightens a knot. “I just couldn’t do both politics and business at the same time. The family, I can handle.”
A week later, she reflects on the balance she tries to maintain between her professional and personal life. Awada explains, “Politics is my job. It’s not my whole being. There’s a division between who I am professionally and how I act personally.” She begins to smile devilishly. “Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean my primary issues are families and children. Mommy issues,” she says with sneering contempt before pulling back with her customary chuckle. “Does my husband have to have daddy issues?” In many ways, this willful compartmentalization is a significant departure from the politics practiced by so many female leaders—from Geraldine Ferraro to Hillary Clinton—who have staked reputations and careers on “feminist” or “feminizing” issues. Pat Awada is a fiscal conservative first. “Mom” is something she leaves at home.
She is presently one of only seven female state auditors in the United States. Though elected less than a year ago, she is regularly mentioned in Republican circles as an attractive and likely candidate for higher office. How much higher? Awada’s interest in local government issues would make her an obvious candidate for governor, and she does not rule out future interest in the office, though she is quick to add that, “the current governor is a good friend and I have no intention of challenging him.”
It’s 8 p.m., a school night, and Pat Awada is standing in her garage, having just completed a bedtime negotiation with her two daughters. Her husband is inside finishing off the details. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a pack of Marlboro Light 100s. She wears a purple coat that matches one worn by her daughter; she wears black sweat pants that stop just short of her ankles, and white stockings that begin just beneath them. She wears running shoes, though she does not exercise. Her long hair is relaxed, foppishly falling over her eyes. “This is my life,” she says, waving the now-lit cigarette at the white Jeep, the toys, the sports equipment, the old political lawn signs. “I’ll give you a tour of the backyard before I go in for the night.”
The Awada home is a modest gray rambler set on a narrow rectangular lot on the bluffs overlooking Interstate 35E in Eagan. If not for the pink door, it would be anonymous in its subdivision. “I just wanted a pink door,” she says with a smile and a shrug. “Probably the only pink door in all of Eagan.” The front yard is grass but for a couple of saplings and a “Liberate Iraq” lawn sign. She gestures at a window well. “That’s where we had some leakage after the floods.” It’s now plugged with one of her spare “Support the Central Park” lawn signs.
Awada is suddenly distracted by motion in a basement window. “What’s going on in there?” She peers through the shades and sees 15-year-old Michael doing his best N’Sync imitation in front of a spinning police light. “Oh god, he’s dancing.” Snickering, she knocks on the window and Michael practically hits the ceiling in embarrassment. “My son!” She doubles over in smoky laughter, more teenage girl than 36-year-old mother. “He’s so busted!”
Continuing around to the other side of the house, she points out two freshly planted trees. “Those are my China trees,” she explains, having been inspired by a recent trip to Beijing and the massive forestry efforts being undertaken on its outskirts. “Those trees right there?” She points at her neighbor’s property. “He had some real ugly scrub over there. Real ugly trees. They were blocking the sun for my garden. So I told him if he didn’t cut them down I’d poison them.” She smiles puckishly. “One day he had a contractor out and he cut them down. As he was doing it, he was giving me a look. But we’re cordial.” She pauses, apparently sensing my skepticism at her willingness to break out the Round-Up. “No, really. I did!” She laughs, unapologetic. “Look, I’ve gotta get inside and help Mike.” She says good night and walks through the open garage door without even a glance back.