And what is all-the-more remarkable about Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is that she has managed to fight her way through the rampant sexism of French politics.
She was twice told by two of her own party’s leaders that she’d missed out on becoming a government minister because she was pregnant.
When first elected, staff at the entrance to the National Assembly used to assume her male assistant was in fact the lawmaker, instead of her.
Politics in France has long been a “boys’ club” where the few women who dare to enter soon discover they are unwelcome.
But there are signs of change. Kosciusko-Morizet, of the center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, is running to become the mayor of Paris. Her main rival is another woman, Anne Hidalgo, of Parti Socialiste. Being in charge of the city of more than 2 million is widely seen as a path to the presidency.
Marielle de Sarnez, of the centrist Mouvement Démocrate, and the Green candidate – possibly a fourth woman, party leader Cecile Duflot -- are likely to fight for third place against candidates from several smaller parties.
In an interview in her office at the National Assembly, Kosciusko-Morizet made clear she embraced her reputation as a tough operator.
“I am a killer … everybody is a killer in politics. Some know how to shoot, some do not. Some do that [shoot] in your face, most of them do that in your back. I do that in the face,” she said.
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