Margaret "Midge" Costanza



Margaret “Midge” Costanza (born November 28, 1932), widely known as "Midge", is a United States Presidential advisor, social and political activist. A life-long champion of gay and women's rights, she is known for wittiness and an outspoken manner which has caused controversy for her strong commitment to her convictions.
Constanza was born to Philip Costanza and Concetta Granata Costanza on November 28, 1932 in LeRoy, New York and was raised in Rochester. Her parents were Sicilian immigrant sausage-makers. Following various clerical jobs she took after high school, Costanza became an administrative assistant for a real estate developer in Rochester, using this job to become active in several community organizations. Taking an interest in politics, Costanza volunteered on W. Averell Harriman's campaign for governor in 1954 and soon became the county executive director of Robert F. Kennedy's Senate campaign in 1964. She served as Democratic National Committee member from 1972 until 1977. In 1973, Constanza ran for an at-large seat on the Rochester city council, becoming Rochester's first councilwoman in a landslide. The recipient of the largest votes traditionally was named mayor, however the council chose a man for the post, naming Costanza vice-mayor, a largely ceremonial position with little power. Costanza lost a race for the United State House of Representatives in 1974 to the popular Republican incumbent. In 1976 when Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter ran for President of the United States, Costanza served as co-chair of his New York campaign operation and gave a seconding speech for him at the Democratic National Convention (Carter had been a volunteer in Costanza's congressional campaign two years prior).  Costanza had been popular with women's groups, and had earned herself a Newsweek cover titled "Woman in the White House".


Upon Carter's election, Costanza was named Assistant to the President for Public Liaison, moving into the office next door to the Oval Office. Costanza was nicknamed "the President's window to the nation", consulting with a wide array of groups. Costanza caused controversy when she invited fourteen Nation Gay Task Force leaders and gay rights activists to the White House at the height of Anita Bryant's homophobic "Save Our Children" campaign. She served on many service group boards of directors, including the AIDS research organization Search Alliance and the National Gay Rights Advocates. Moving to San Diego County in 1990, Costanza coached candidates for office in public speaking, serving as the coordinator for Barbara Boxer's winning United States Senate in the Year of the Woman, 1992, and as manager for Kathleen Brown's failed gubernatorial candidacy in 1994. Governor of California Gray Davis appointed Costanza as a liaison for women's groups and issues. Costanza lost that job when Gray Davis lost a recall reelection in November 2003.  Costanza became a professor at San Diego State University in 2004 and is working with the Political Science and Women's Studies departments of San Diego State and the Political Science department of the University of California, San Diego to develop the Midge Costanza Institute. The Institute is mainly aimed at inspiring young people to become active in political and social causes.