Published June 16, 2021

Straight, a visiting associate at the Eagleton Institute, was a champion for women in politics

Candace Straight, an investment banker, former member of the Rutgers Board of Governors and a visiting associate at Eagleton Institute of Politics who spent decades working to elect women in government, died Sunday at the age of 73.

candy straightStraight was a leader in national and New Jersey organizations that sought to expand the voice of women in politics. She was cofounder of Women for a Stronger New Jersey, which focuses on expanding the pool of Republican women considering public office. She served on the university’s board of governors from 2011 to 2016.

John Farmer Jr., Eagleton director, said that although Straight was a lifelong Republican, “she wasn’t interested in party purity.’’

“She maintained relationships, personal and professional, with people across the political spectrum,” Farmer said. “She was committed to a better democracy and the often difficult but always necessary task of working across parties and between people to make our democracy function for everyone. Most of all, she believed that women’s increased participation in American democracy was a key to strengthening it.”

Straight also served as chair of the Republican Majority for Choice, a Republican organization that was dedicated to preserving legal access to abortion. She also served as president of The WISH List, a political action committee for pro-choice Republican women candidates at all levels of government.

Farmer said that Straight was a fierce champion for the university during her time on the Board of Governors. He called her “a strong voice in Trenton for the need for a preeminent statewide research university.”

Straight’s role at Eagleton included mentoring students and speaking to classes. For two decades, she was a regular presenter at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) Ready to Run campaign training program where she brought her knowledge and expertise to generations of women.

“Candy was someone I could always turn to for advice. Her insight and keen understanding of politics was unmatched and invaluable as we shaped new programs and research,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh. “Up to her last days, she was talking about the future for women in politics, looking for solutions, looking for ways to expand women’s influence in the Republican Party, and searching for strategies to support moderate women. It was a lifetime commitment in the most sincere sense of the word.”

In an interview with the Eagleton Center on the American Governor during her tenure on the Rutgers Board of Governors, Straight reflected on her legacy: “I hope that I’ve been a mentor for both women in politics and women in business.”

“There is no doubt that Candy fulfilled her personal mission as a mentor,” said Farmer. “She touched the lives of countless Eagleton students and young professionals who are now shaping a more inclusive generation of political leaders, just as Candy envisioned.”

Straight also broke barriers with her success in the finance industry and used her experience to inform accurate portrayals in the first female-driven Wall Street film. She worked in mergers and acquisitions for Merck and partnered in a private equity fund before retiring in 1998. Her pioneering career was one of several charted in Melissa S. Fisher’s 2012 book, Wall Street Women.

In 2014, Straight was approached by actors and writers Alysia Reiner and Sarah Megan Thomas about a movie script detailing the struggles of women navigating a male-dominated world. She threw her support behind it and became the executive producer of the 2016 movie Equity, starring Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn as a Wall Street investment banker who gets passed over for a promotion and becomes entangled in an initial public offering scandal.

“[Reiner and Thomas] wanted to make a great movie that featured women behind and in front of the camera. It’s the first time it has ever happened in a Wall Street movie,” Straight said in a 2016 interview with Rutgers Today. “As someone who worked hard on trying to break the glass ceiling and was past president on the Financial Women’s Association of New York, the movie just spoke to me.”

Straight also served on the board of Rebelle Media, a film and TV production company dedicated to providing outstanding roles for women in front of and behind the camera. Following Equity, Straight was an executive producer of the movie An Acceptable Loss starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tika Sumpter, which was released in theaters in January 2019.

In 1982, she was appointed to the board of the Public Employees Retirement System by Governor Tom Kean, serving until 1988. Straight was co-chair of Governor Christie Whitman’s budget advisory committee and Whitman appointed her to the board of the New Jersey Exposition Authority, where she served as vice chair from 1996 to 2003.

Straight was deeply devoted to her family, particularly her brother Dwight, who was developmentally disabled, and her mother Dorothy. Until Dorothy’s death she was Straight’s constant companion at Eagleton and CAWP events.

Straight’s family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her honor to the Candace L. Straight Legacy Fund she established at the Center for American Women and Politics.

Story originally appeared in Rutgers Today.