NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Wanted: Women willing to run for office

At a time when women’s repro­duc­tive rights are under attack in state leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try, there might soon be no female Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors to push back. The only two such gov­er­nors left in office — Washington’s Chris Gre­goire and North Carolina’s Bev Pur­due — are leav­ing office in 2013, and only one state, New Hamp­shire, has nom­i­nat­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic woman for gov­er­nor this year. In oth­er words, women are los­ing ground.

 “We might as well turn the clock back 50 years, because that’s the last time we were with­out a sit­ting woman gov­er­nor who sup­port­ed repro­duc­tive choic­es and options, and that’s what we’re look­ing at again,” said Sam Ben­nett, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Wom­en’s Cam­paign Fund.

In 2006, Gov­er­nor Gre­goire stood up for Wash­ing­ton women when the State Board of Phar­ma­cy pro­posed a rule allow­ing phar­ma­cists to refuse to dis­pense med­ica­tion, includ­ing the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive Plan B, because of moral objec­tions. Gov­er­nor Gre­goire pushed for and nego­ti­at­ed a com­pro­mise with the board that pro­tect­ed wom­en’s access to Plan B, and she con­tin­ues to defend that com­pro­mise as it is lit­i­gat­ed in fed­er­al court.

Con­tra­cep­tion, until recent­ly an accept­ed part of our cul­ture and a pri­ma­ry fac­tor in 20th cen­tu­ry women’s empow­er­ment and acqui­si­tion of free­doms, is the lat­est thing that “free­dom-lov­ing” con­ser­v­a­tives love to hate. Since August 1st, the Patient Pro­tect Act has guar­an­teed women no-cost con­tra­cep­tion, but efforts to ease reli­gious objec­tions to this pro­vi­sion weren’t enough for many state leg­is­la­tures:

Nine states have con­sid­ered leg­is­la­tion or bal­lot mea­sures that would either reject the fed­er­al reg­u­la­tion or under­mine con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age in state law.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leg­isla­tive Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DLCC) has a roundup of oth­er appalling Repub­li­can attacks on wom­en’s rights this year:

Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tures across the Unit­ed States have repealed equal pay guar­an­tees, made it legal to fire women for using con­tra­cep­tion, forced women to under­go unnec­es­sary and inva­sive ultra-sounds before hav­ing an abor­tion, silenced two female Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors in Michi­gan after using med­ical­ly cor­rect terms to speak out against anti-choice leg­is­la­tion, and called a sex­u­al assault vic­tim “defec­tive.”

While Demo­c­ra­t­ic men have long sup­port­ed wom­en’s rights, women pro­vide a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive from men and bring dif­fer­ent styles and skills to the polit­i­cal table. In fact, last week NPR report­ed that the stocks of com­pa­nies with women on their boards out­per­form those with all-male boards — fur­ther proof that a bal­anced approach is bet­ter.

While the major­i­ty of women cur­rent­ly serv­ing in state leg­is­la­tures are Demo­c­ra­t­ic, the total num­ber of female leg­is­la­tors has been stag­nant at around 23% for over a decade. Thank­ful­ly, researchers are inves­ti­gat­ing what we can do as a soci­ety to encour­age women to run for office and increase this num­ber. Inter­est­ing­ly, on aver­age, when women run, they tend to win their races as often as men do. What is real­ly need­ed is for more women to be recruit­ed to run for office, and these can­di­dates need female elect­ed offi­cials to men­tor them. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty could facil­i­tate this process, as it often has a pow­er­ful role in can­di­date recruit­ment and fund­ing.

To have a tru­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy and a bal­anced per­spec­tive from our polit­i­cal lead­er­ship, women need to step up, and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty and women office­hold­ers must sup­port and encour­age them to run for office. Kudos to the ladies tak­ing a chance and run­ning for office this elec­tion sea­son. Your coun­try and your sis­ters need you.

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