NWPC in the News
By Halimah Abdullah, CNN
Tue May 13, 2014
Washington (CNN) -- The women talked about it at the gym, caring for their children, over drinks and dinner and in the hallways of Congress.
More than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were gone, kidnapped from their beds by an armed terrorist group, Boko Haram, who vowed to sell them into forced child marriages — all because the young women had dared to seek an education.
So, just a few days before Mother's Day, every single woman lawmaker in Congress signed letters urging President Barack Obama to push the U.N. Security Council to add Boko Haram to the al Qaeda Sanctions List.
It was a move Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, said would send "a strong message to the administration and the U.N."
The sanctions would require all member nations to freeze the assets of those affiliated with Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, and prevent travel through their borders.
"We are mothers, sisters and daughters and we were all feeling helpless and wanted to do something," said Rep. Ann Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat.
She worked across the aisle with Wagner over the course of two days last week to get the 79 women in the House to sign the letter.
"It's not that we're going to do this without men, but we are going to speak up and not be silenced," Kuster said.
They were inspired by the example set earlier that week by Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, two veteran lawmakers who got the 20 women in their chamber to sign a similar letter.
The message, the women said, was to give voice to the voiceless. And, as female lawmakers, they say their perspective lends a different take on this and other policy issues.
"Symbolically, it is very important that all the women in the House and Senate came together to get the U.S. government to push the U.N. Council on the sanction issue," said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. "It's hard to come up with a better mix to push this forward. It highlights issues that cut across party lines that affect women and girls."
We will not be silenced
Their election to Congress in 2012, with a historic number of women elected to the Senate, made them the largest class of female lawmakers to ever walk the halls of the Hill.
Ever since then, the 99 women of the 113th Congress have pushed for changes that political experts say have had an impact both in terms of perception and policy on women and girls.
The list of key initiatives is long.
• Female lawmakers, such as Wagner, have bills poised to come to the floor next week designed to end what the United Nations estimates is the $9.5 billion human trafficking industry in the United States.
• Mikulski sponsored a paycheck fairness measure in the Senate and when it was blocked last month by Republicans, she lashed out at those who say women are "too emotional when we talk."
• Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, have a measure that would create a bipartisan commission to study using private funds to create a National Women's History Museum in Washington.
• The women of the Black Congressional Caucus recently pressured the Pentagon to re-examine grooming rules they felt were discriminatory to female troops of color.
• Women in both chambers last year helped lead the fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and ensured that language expanded protections to immigrants, Native Americans, gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals.
• That same year, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California and more than a dozen other Democrats put forth a House resolution asking Congress to recognize the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and children in poor nations.
• Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri worked for most of 2013 on competing measures to reform the process for prosecuting military sex assaults. Though headlines tended to focus on fractures within the Senate women's caucus over the two competing measures, the very fact that the two lawmakers were able to raise the profile of the issue is noteworthy, Lawless said.
• And it was the actions of women, in particular Collins and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, as a chief budget negotiator, that helped end last year's government shutdown and helped craft a debt deal.
Breaking bread and stalemates
Collins said she remembered sitting in her office one Saturday watching C-SPAN in disgust as lawmakers bickered over the details of a spending plan and whether that plan should, as some in the GOP wanted, defund or whittle away at Obamacare.
She pounded out a three-point plan to end the shutdown and went to the Senate floor to plead with fellow lawmakers to let go of partisanship and start negotiating.
When she left the floor, her cell phone rang. It was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, offering to help. When the phone rang again, it was Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican. Part of that plan would help form the framework that ended the government shutdown.
"There have been definite strides and we're pleased at seeing progress," said Linda Young, president of the National Women's Political Caucus, a nonprofit group which seeks to improve female participation in politics. "When there are more women at the decision-making table there is a different perspective expressed."
At a gathering hosted by Senate women every six weeks, Mikulski has three rules: no staff, no press and no leaks. The get-togethers, which are often held at a lawmaker's home, are a time for the women to bond outside of the halls of Congress and get to know one another on a personal level.
Recently, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, hosted the women.
Over on the House side, the women try to get to know each other on a personal level.
"We've got our softball team, the gym, we get together for dinner or a cocktail," Wagner said. "We talk about our families and who are as wives, daughters and mothers. You have to reach a humanity level to realize that end of the day we need to come together."
All of that bonding might have an effect on policy, according to research by the University of Virginia.
"Based on scoring all lawmaking activities in the House of Representatives, women in the minority party are one third more effective than men in the minority party," said Craig Volden, a public policy and politics professor at the University of Virginia who, along with his team, examined the sponsorship of bills from 1973 to 2008.
Volden and his team of researchers have also found that female lawmakers tend to sponsor bills on broader range of policy areas than their male counterpart, and that the "women's issue" areas tend to face more gridlock than the "'men's issue" areas.
'No room for gridlock'
When it comes to the issue of helping rescue the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, female lawmakers say there is no room for gridlock.
"I knew the 20 women of the Senate, standing united and speaking in unison, were in a position to send a very powerful message, one that not only condemns this crime but that also helps spur action to bring these girls back home safely to their families," Collins told CNN in a statement.
And they will not take "no" for an answer.
"We may make some additional calls to the White House," Wagner said. "Just to make sure they understand our position on this going forward."
Texas women part of suffrage fight, but approach was different
By Trish Choate on March 3, 2013
CORPUS CHRISTI — WASHINGTON — Texas women had equal rights when it came to chopping wood, plowing the field or fixing a fence, but they couldn’t vote.
If women took part in politics, these frail creatures might get the vapors or become incapable of bearing children. In any case, it just wouldn’t be ladylike.
These were attitudes of the day Texas suffragists had to overcome, aided by a San Angelo rancher and the 19th Amendment, to vote and run for office.
“They had all these responsibilities, particularly in the rural areas, working alongside the men, keeping the farms and ranches going,” said Nancy Baker Jones, head of the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation for Texas Women’s History in Austin. “But they themselves couldn’t vote.”
Women in the Lone Star State started their mission to win the vote in earnest a little later than their national counterparts, but Texans were among 5,000 marchers in the Women’s Suffrage Parade on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. Texans are showing up again for events in the nation’s capital for the Suffrage Centennial Celebration.
In 1875, supporters made the second real attempt to give Texas women the vote in the state Constitution, which spelled out who was barred from the polls.
“That included lunatics, paupers and felons, but the Constitution didn’t even mention women,” Baker Jones said.
Texas women took that as a message they had even less status and a sign of the hard work ahead, she said.
In the 19th Century, a woman didn’t have many rights, especially a married woman, said Linda Denny, a board member for the National Women’s History Museum and an organizer of the Suffrage Centennial Celebration.
“Anything that she owned when she married became her husband’s property,” Denny said.
Women in Texas went about getting the right to vote differently from those on the national stage in Washington.
Texas suffragists didn’t want to appear militant like those in the capital who picketed and burned effigies of President Woodrow Wilson.
In the South, suffragists felt pressure to mind conservative social mores and avoid stepping out of the bounds of ladylike behavior — one reason the movement lost its steam in the Lone Star State, said Erica Whittington, program officer for nonprofit Humanities Texas.
Meanwhile, political life in the 19th Century was rough and tumble, seen as no place for a woman.
Spittoons were part of the décor in the Texas Legislature, where men drank beer, smoked cigars and told off-color stories, Baker Jones said.
Middle class values held that women were frail creatures, just not strong enough to understand the issues while men were, she said.
But World War I was a turning point for the suffrage movement because of women’s contribution to the war effort, Whittington said.
Charles B. Metcalfe provided another turning point in Texas.
He was a rancher from San Angelo who served in the Legislature from 1914 to 1918. His priorities?
Tick and scab eradication — and women’s suffrage, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
Metcalfe introduced a bill in 1918 to allow women to vote in primaries. It was approved in the state House 84-34 and the Senate 18-4 and signed into law. Texas was a largely Democratic state then and races decided predominantly in primaries. So it was almost like total enfranchisement.
The next year, the national push to ratify the 19th Amendment to give women the right to vote swept through Texas. The Legislature met in special session in June 1919, and Texas was the first state in the South to approve the amendment.
Linda Young, an Austin woman taking part in events celebrating the Suffrage Parade Centennial in Washington, says there’s more to do to guarantee equal rights for women.
Young, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, said she’ll be on hand for the announcement the Equal Rights Amendment will be introduced in Congress again March 6.
“Texas actually passed it at the time it was soaring back 40 years ago,” Young said.
Washington correspondent Trish Choate can be reached at 202 408-2709 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women Democratic Surge Creates Congressional Gender Gap
By Kathleen Hunter and Jonathan D. Salant on November 15, 2012
The gender gap that emerged among voters during the presidential election is manifesting itself in a new way: inside Congress.
The incoming Senate will have four times as many female Democrats compared with their Republican counterparts -- 16 to 4 -- and the imbalance will be almost 3 to 1 among female House members, 58 to 20.
The public portrait of the two parties diverged further yesterday when Senate Republicans elected a man to fill the only vacancy in their all-male leadership. The only woman in the House Republicans’ top leadership, conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, defeated a challenge by Representative Tom Price of Georgia, who was backed by Representative Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential nominee from Wisconsin.
On the Democratic side, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California announced yesterday that she would stay on for another two-year term. Pelosi served as the first and only woman speaker from 2007-2011. Senate Democrats re-elected their only female member of leadership -- Patty Murray of Washington -- as the fourth-ranking party official.
“Republicans have become extraordinarily out of touch with women, particularly women who are employed outside the home,” said Jean Schroedel, a professor in the Department of Politics and Policy at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.
Year of Woman
Since 1992, the so-called “Year of the Woman” when a wave of female candidates were elected to public office, “Democrats had to pay attention to women in a way they never had to before,” Schroedel said. In subsequent years they made disproportionate gains in electing women to office.
Pelosi emphasized the gender gap at a news conference yesterday where, surrounded by dozens of her female colleagues, she said she decided against giving up her leadership role just as congressional leaders begin negotiating a possible deal to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1.
“For some people in the general public, the thought of four men at that table was not an appealing sight, however excellent they might be,” Pelosi said.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is up for re-election in 2014, said the leadership elections may make it harder for her party to improve its standing with women voters, which should be a top priority.
More Than Half
“After all, women make up more than half of the electorate, and it was evident as I campaigned for some of my colleagues that the Democrats had been successful -- unfairly in my view -- in painting my party as somehow anti-women,” she said. “It does not help us correct that totally erroneous impression that we do not have women in leadership positions in the Senate and have only one woman in the House.”
Women voters, 53 percent of the electorate, backed President Barack Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, 55 percent to 44 percent, according to exit polls. The number of Democratic women in the Senate and House increased, while Republican women in both chambers declined.
Among the outside groups that engaged in the election, Emily’s List, a group that supports Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, was among the most successful after 80 percent of its endorsed House and Senate candidates won.
Democrats were well-positioned to send more women to the Senate because they nominated women in states that lean Democratic. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii, and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts all won comfortably in states that voted for Obama.
Another advantage for Democrats: they will have about 500 more female state legislators than the Republicans next year, providing a deeper bench from which to recruit experienced candidates.
“It’s important women be at all the tables,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, because they’re usually the primary caregivers and are more focused on issues such as health care, education, children and families.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who just won re-election, said that she has already talked with Republicans Collins and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to see if there are issues they can work together on.
“We don’t revel in the conflict,” McCaskill said.
Voice on Issues
Ayotte said yesterday in an interview the lack of women in Senate Republican leadership ranks hasn’t kept her from having a voice on issues such as Republicans’ push to make sure suspected terrorists are tried in military rather than civilian courts.
“It’s more important how our opinions are sought, and that they are respected, than just optics on these issues,” Ayotte said.
A third benefit for Democrats, said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, is that women in the party “bring their own life experiences” to the public forum.
During the House debate in February 2011 to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to women, Representative Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, defended the organization by talking about her own abortion. Representative Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, said during a debate on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in March that she was the victim of rape and domestic abuse.
Ayotte said Republicans’ call for fiscal responsibility and economic growth resonates with women voters. “Women in families often handle the finances, and see up close the impact Washington has on them,” she said.
Ayotte said that while she would like to see more Republican women elected to Congress, there are other prominent women in the party, such as Governors Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Nikki Haley of South Carolina.
Republicans worsened the electorate’s gender gap in part because of comments by male candidates that offended female voters, including questioning what is “legitimate rape.”
“It’s not that the Republican Party has always been anti- woman, it’s just that in this election, it made it seem that way,” said Linda Young, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, which endorses women candidates of both parties who support abortion rights.
To contact the reporters on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at email@example.com; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com
Why The White House Glass Ceiling Remains Solid
By Linton Weeks on November 1, 2012
Will the United States ever elect a woman president?
When President Obama — or Mitt Romney — leaves the Oval Office, there will be a handful of highly touted female candidates for consideration as top-of-the-ticket nominees for both major parties.
On the Republican side, the list includes Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and maybe even Sarah Palin of Alaska.
On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Massachusetts Senate nominee Elizabeth Warren would be serious contenders, regardless of whether Obama wins or loses.
"We have all heard rumors about women running at the top of the ticket of both parties for 2016," says Linda Young, president of the National Women's Political Caucus. "We do not have any concrete commitment by anyone yet for those races."
But despite all of the possible female candidates waiting in the wings, many political observers express doubt that a woman will be elected — or even nominated to be — president in the near future.
Which is weird. Because in just about every other aspect of American life, women are taking over.
'Poised To Lead'
Check the stats: According to the latest census figures, there are more women than men in the United States. More women earn college degrees and graduate degrees than men, the University of Minnesota reports.
In many places of cultural import where women are not in power, the trend is in their favor. In 1990, for example, only 36 percent of medical school graduates were female; in 2011, more than 48 percent were female, according to a Catalyst survey. For the past 10 years, the Women's Media Center finds, women have outpaced men by at least 2 to 1 among journalism and mass communications majors.
Women are making gains in the workplace. In 2012, there are more female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies than ever before. "There's a pipeline of women coming into leadership positions that's very, very deep and very, very wide," Fortune's executive editor, Stephanie Mehta, told The Huffington Post. "There are women sitting just below the CEO position at these Fortune 500 companies and many of them are poised to lead Fortune 500 companies when there are openings and movement."
Businesswomen beget more businesswomen. According to Catalyst, a pro-business organization for women, "companies with more women in top leadership positions, on average, far outperform those with fewer and ... companies with more women board directors are likelier to have more women corporate officers five years later."
In the policymaking arena, female politicians beget more of the same. In 1979, only 3 percent of those in Congress were women; in 2012, nearly 17 percent of those in Congress are women. The proportion of women in statewide elective offices has also increased from 11 percent in 1979 to more than 23 percent in 2012, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University tells us.
Moreover, the center notes, female voters rule in presidential elections, as well. In every presidential election since 1964, there have been more female voters than male voters. And since 1980, "the proportion of eligible female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who voted."
That is not to say that women tend to vote more for women than for men. That is not always the case. But if there are more women than men in this country and there are more women in powerful positions in colleges and corporations, the chances of a female candidate being nominated and elected naturally increase.
Room At The Top
But is America ready for a female president? Apparently so. Way back in 2006, more than 60 percent of Americans, Gallup News Service reported, thought the United States was ready for a female president.
Less than 60 percent, by the way, thought the country was ready for an African-American president. Now that Obama has broken one barrier, perhaps a female candidate will break another in a coming contest.
Women are looking for new leaders. According to a recent report by Generation Opportunity — a nonpartisan think tank focusing on the economics of young Americans — fewer than 40 percent of women surveyed say that elected officials represent their interests. And nearly 80 percent plan to vote on Nov. 6.
But even if women are looking to other women to better represent them, proponents of female representation say there are just not enough potential candidates. There are significantly more women running for office in 2012 than before, says Linda Young. But "women still do not represent even close to an equal number of men candidates."
According to stats from the National Women's Political Caucus, there are 18 women from the major parties running for Senate in 15 races in 2012. That boils down to 27 percent of all candidates in 45 percent of the races — leaving men with 73 percent of candidates and with at least one man running in 91 percent of the races. Women make up only 18.7 percent of the House candidates.
For years the National Women's Political Caucus has called for gender equality in federal offices. The slogan has been "50/50 by 2020." But as the deadline approaches, Young says, "it is unlikely that we will be able to achieve such equality by 2020 since in 2012 the congressional percentage of women compared to men members is only 17 percent."
She is heartened by some signs. "We have seen women in higher positions politically in the U.S., as we fairly recently saw a woman serve as speaker of the House [Nancy Pelosi , 2007-2011], and we have had women serve in Cabinet positions for quite a number of years. What we have not seen is a woman at the top of our national government."
Meanwhile, in many other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Germany, Iceland, Liberia and Switzerland, women hold top leadership positions.
A Shallow Bench
So will a woman be nominated for president next time around? "To me it will just take the right woman, rather than just any woman," says Monika L. McDermott, a political scientist at Fordham University. "I believe Hillary Clinton could have been the right woman, she was just at the wrong time — Obama's time. What it will take is a woman who overcomes being a 'woman candidate' and is just a 'candidate.' "
The problem: "We don't have a very deep bench," says former Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder of Colorado. "Hillary Clinton is the one woman I could see being able to run and make it. ... There are a lot of women running this year. Hopefully some will make it and move up."
In 1972 Schroeder became the first woman from Colorado to be elected to Congress. She served for 24 years, and in 1987 she launched a trailblazing — but truncated — campaign for the presidency. (Other women have run for president over the years but never received a major-party nomination.) Today Schroeder is retired from public office and living in Florida.
When it comes to electing a woman as president, there is, Schroeder says, "lots to do." But she believes that having a female president would change the nature of national debates. "Women define the economy differently," she says, "wanting equal pay."
And the importance of contraception for planning one's family and working, she says, would move to the forefront.
Under female leadership, the U.S. domestic policy "would be very different," Schroeder says. And, she adds, "Foreign policy would hopefully not have the bluster that can sometimes lead to confrontation."
When Schroeder was first elected, she says, "I asked the Library of Congress how long it would be before the Congress would reflect the percentage of women in the population. ... They said over 400 years."
Schroeder says, "I thought I had some sexist jerk researcher. But today, I worry they may be close to right."
Obama's pitch to swing-state women
By: Mary Curtis
March 18, 2012
CHARLOTTE — Never let an opportunity go to waste. That has to be the thinking behind the Obama reelection campaign’s appeals to women in 2012 battleground states. North Carolina definitely falls into that category,
Setting the convention in Charlotte is a sign that Democrats, despite 2010 setbacks, are serious about repeating their narrow 2008 success. And the debate over health insurance coverage of contraception, coupled with the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, presents a chance
Now that a discussion about religious liberty and insurance coverage has turned into a debate over transvaginal ultrasounds, Democrats hope for gains among moderate and independent female voters and the widening of a gender gap that has traditionally favored their party. GOP wins in the 2010 midterms showed how essential those voters are to electoral success.
Mailings in North Carolina could not be any clearer as they list ways the new law is “preventing discrimination against women like you, banning insurance caps on needed care, keeping your kids covered until age 26.” They detail preventive services available with no co-pay, and provide a Web address for more details. It’s a campaign pegged to Women’s History Month, with women-to-women phone banks and house meetings to discuss specifics on how the Affordable Care Act has benefited communities across the state.
As part of the “Nurses for Obama” launch, Wanda Jenkins told reporters she planned to make calls, and with a group of nurses she is “going out and speaking to members of the community to talk about the Affordable Care Act” in Charlotte, where she is a school nurse at a pre-K-through-eighth-grade school.
In a call organized by Obama for America in North Carolina, Jenkins said that before she became a nurse, she had a job that didn’t offer insurance, but she didn’t qualify for Medicaid because of her income. “My son and I had to do without.”
Jenkins, who has also worked as a hospice and home care nurse, said she has “seen families struggle to save on premiums and prescriptions” and “children excluded from school because they do not have immunizations.” She framed health-care reform as a return to “fundamental” American values, “that we are our brothers’ keepers.”
On the other side, it’s not just national groups such as the antiabortion Susan B. Anthony List fighting the narrative that the current debate pushes women toward Democratic candidates.
Claire J. Mahoney, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Republican Women, called the Democratic effort a “diversion,” a “classic bait and switch.” She said that Democrats create a problem, then “come in as a savior” and blame Republicans.
“It’s just been one big PR strategy, and it’s backfired on them,” Mahoney said. “I don’t think the effort will make a difference.” Mahoney said conservatives “don’t do identity politics, whether it’s women over here and the gays over there.”
In this case, she said it was about violating the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of religion, not women’s health. “From a conservative prospective, I don’t feel it’s empowering to demand that other women pay for my choices.”
“I think they are all side issues. To focus on those is to play their game, and I don’t play their game.” Mahoney, who said her group is 150 and growing, said that women and all Americans care about the economy. “That’s what people are talking about wherever I go.”
But unlike North Carolina’s Republican Sen. Richard Burr, Mahoney won’t predict a GOP November victory. “There’s a reason North Carolina is called a swing state.”
There is a lot of ground for Democrats to make up here. Since 2008, when Obama won the state by 14,000 votes and helped carry Gov. Bev Perdue into office, North Carolina has taken a conservative turn, with the general assembly in Republican control for the first time in a century after the 2010 midterms. Perdue, whose veto of a restrictive abortion bill was overturned, has announced she will not run for reelection.
Though the economy still matters most in the presidential contest and foreign policy crises give commander-in-chief policies priority, social issues remain an important part of the conversation. They are central to the message of GOP hopeful Rick Santorum, who after wins in Mississippi and Alabama is looking stronger.
Front-runner Mitt Romney — looking over his shoulder — aims to match his challenger’s socially conservative bona fides, making headlines with a Missouri sound bite — “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that” — on eliminating federal funding for the organization.
At the Charlotte convention, now more important than ever for Democratic hopes, one group planning a presence is the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), the multi-partisan, grass-roots group founded by Democrats and Republicans in 1971 with a goal of electing more women to office. A Sept. 2 NWPC reception, two days before the convention’s official start, will welcome supporters, elected women and candidates.
NWPC’s top issues — supporting a woman’s right to choose, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and dependent care for women balancing responsibility for children and aging relatives — have left it with few GOP candidates to endorse.
Program director Bettina Hager, who is 27 and single and has been with NWPC for a little over two years, said, “Women should be able to make decisions over their bodies.” Before she became involved in the organization, she said she thought that battle “had been fought and won.”
“We have Republicans in our mix,” Hager told me. “What we do is reach out to women of all parties.” She said they were looking forward to endorsing GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and were “really sad” when she decided to retire. “There are Republican women out there who believe in our issues,” she said. But right now, “it’s a very difficult place to be.”
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, is a contributor to The Root, Fox News Charlotte, NPR, Creative Loafing and Nieman Watchdog blog. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3.
Obama gains among women amid improving economy, new talk about their access to birth control
By: Laurie Kellman and Jennifer Agiesta, Associated Press
February 27, 2012
Washington — It’s looking like President Barack Obama may be back in the good graces of women.
His support dropped among this critical constituency just before the new year began and the presidential campaign got under way in earnest. But his standing with female voters is strengthening, polls show, as the economy improves and social issues, including birth control, become a bigger part of the nation’s political discourse.
"Republicans are making a big mistake with this contraception talk, and I’m pretty sure that they are giving (the election) to Obama," says Patricia Speyerer, 87, of McComb, Miss., a GOP-leaning independent. "It’s a stupid thing."
The recent furor over whether religious employers should be forced to pay for their workers’ contraception is certainly a factor but hardly the only reason for women warming up to Obama again after turning away from him late last year.
An Associated Press-GfK poll suggests women also are giving the president more credit than men are for the country’s economic turnaround.
Among women, his approval ratings on handling the economy and unemployment have jumped by 10 percentage points since December. Back then, a wide swath of Americans expressed anxiety over the nation’s slow climb out of recession and anger at a government that couldn’t agree on steps to speed things up.
Since then, the unemployment rate has kept declining, and Obama hasn’t been shy about trumpeting it, and analysts say that drop may have resonated particularly with women.
For Obama, there is no more crucial constituency than women. They make up a majority of voters in presidential elections, and a bit more of them identify with his party. He would not be president today without topping Republican John McCain in that group in 2008. And Republicans would need to win a sizable share — more than about 40 percent — of female voters to beat him.
Though the economy remains the top concern among both women and men, an array of social issues — gay marriage, access to birth control and whether cancer research should be kept separate from the issue of abortion— have returned to the nation’s political conversation since December. And both parties have snapped up those issues to awaken their staunchest supporters.
Republicans from Capitol Hill to the presidential campaign trail focused particularly on a requirement in Obama’s health care law for some religious employers to pay for birth control. Obama then adjusted that policy by instead directing insurance companies to pay for birth control — and Democrats are running with a message that Republicans want to upend long-established rights for women.
"Women are used to making decisions and running their lives," said Linda Young, president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, which favors abortion rights. "To hear their right to contraception questioned in 2012 is shocking, and it’s gotten a lot of people’s attention."
Republicans say the economy will again overtake that discussion and it will be clear the GOP offers families more once Republicans choose a nominee, turn their fire from each other to Obama and make their case on issues such as gas prices and the deficit.
"The economic indicators, we have to admit, are very slowly improving, and that is something that has always affected the female vote," said Rae Lynne Chornenky, president of the National Federation of Republican Women. "Until we get a candidate I don’t think the full story can be told."
"People in both political parties are keeping this (cultural narrative) alive because they’re trying to excite their bases," said Republican Brian Flaherty, who served as a Connecticut legislator for 15 years. "You can afford to have this attention in February on" reproductive issues.
An AP-GfK poll conducted Feb. 16-20 showed that on overall approval Obama has gained 10 percentage points among women since December, from 43 percent to 53 percent, even though his administration seemed to stumble over whether religious employers should be forced to pay for contraception.
Women also are the reason behind Obama’s lead over Republican hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum: In one-on-one matchups, Obama beats Romney 54 percent to 41 percent and tops Santorum 56 percent to 40 percent among women, but virtually ties each Republican among men. Women are Obama’s to lose: They are more apt to identify with Democrats and give that party higher favorability than are men.
Over time, there hasn’t been much shift in women’s views of the Democratic Party, but views of the GOP have become more polarized since the AP last asked about the issue in January 2011. Thirty-nine percent of Republican women hold a "very favorable" view of the party, compared with 27 percent a year ago. At the same time, 57 percent of Democratic women now give the GOP a deeply unfavorable rating, the first time that figure has topped 50 percent.
Republicans insist their objections to Obama’s policy on birth control coverage are about government infringing on the freedom of religion, not about contraception, which is supported by a broad majority of Americans.
But Santorum also says, as he has for years, that contraception conflicts with his Roman Catholic beliefs.
"Well, I’m a Roman Catholic, too," said Speyerer. She recalls that in 1940s New Orleans, where she was born and married, it was illegal to publish anything about birth control, "and I don’t want to see that happen again."
Democrats already have sought to capitalize on that sentiment, holding a faux hearing last week with a single woman denied the chance to testify about contraception to a Republican-controlled House committee.
There will be more of that this week. Senate Democrats have agreed to debate a measure by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri that would allow health plans to deny coverage for any service that violates the sponsor’s beliefs. And on Thursday, a coalition of women’s groups called HERvotes is holding a news conference in Washington to protest the renewed questioning of long-established rights for women.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Feb. 16-20 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,000 adults, including 485 women. Results from the full sample have a margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points. Among women, the margin of error is 6 points.
Relentless Scrutiny Pushed Palin to Exasperation
By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press
Feb 24, 2012
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Just a few months after returning from the presidential campaign trail, a weary Sarah Palin shot off a 1 a.m. email to top colleagues in her office.
Buried in ethics complaints that she deemed frivolous, the Alaska governor was feeling increasingly detached from her family. She faced mounting legal bills that only exacerbated the financial turmoil related to her family's travel.
"I'm just beat down on this one. I am tired. The opponents have succeeded on the drive towards our personal bankruptcy, and have divided my family," she wrote.
She finished the overnight email with a sobering conclusion: "One has to be single, wealthy, or corrupt to function in this political system."
The relentless examination and subsequent exasperation lingered for months after Palin's stint as a vice presidential candidate in 2008, and thousands of documents released by the state this week indicate that it ultimately drove her to leave political office.
Emails show that Palin remained engaged as governor in the issues of her day job, pushing for a natural gas pipeline, preparing speeches for civic groups, coordinating with the state's chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and even helping arrange a reception for football players at the governor's mansion. She said it was invigorating to directly speak to protesters holding a derogatory sign.
The treasurer of Palin's political action committee, Tim Crawford, said Thursday: "We encourage everyone to read the emails. They show a governor hard at work for her state."
Linda Young, president of the National Women's Political Caucus, said she believed Palin and other women like Hillary Clinton are more scrutinized than their male counterparts. She said it was clear that people were particularly focused on trying to expose Palin's faults — a process made worse by what Young sees as a climate of combative politics.
"While I don't agree with many of her political beliefs, I do think that it would be a lot more appropriate if male and female candidates were treated alike," she said.
Young, who works to encourage women in politics, said politics can be difficult on families. But she said women can find a balance between maintaining their homes and offices at the same time.
The documents show Palin becoming increasingly distracted by the external issues tied to her newfound celebrity.
One of her political critics, trying to tout his own international experience in early 2009, parroted a "Saturday Night Live" line about Palin being able to see Russia from her house — a phrase that morphed from the governor's initial comment that Russia was visible from part of Alaska.
"Why does he suggest I said i could see russia from my house? I said u can see russia from Alaska, in trying to explain the proximity," she wrote to a staffer.
Palin then added in another email, "It's going to be a long two years..."
It turned out that Palin wouldn't last that long. She resigned six months later.
Alaska released some 24,000 pages of emails last year that focused on Palin's time before she joined the Republican ticket with presidential nominee John McCain. This week the state released some 34,820 pages. The request for records was to cover from October 2008 until Palin's resignation in July 2009, but the release also included emails from earlier in Palin's term, which the current governor's deputy chief of staff said were inadvertently omitted from last year's release.
In the weeks leading to her resignation announcement, Palin didn't tip off anyone about her plans, and she focused mainly on encouraging her communications staff to put news about the state on Twitter, approving tweets before they went out and making speeches.
Commissioners and the governor's staff were notified of a conference call July 3. The email said: "The Governor will be making an announcement at 11:00am. You are encouraged to call in to listen at 1-800-315-6338, code 0703." Palin announced that day that she intended to resign.
In an email at 11:42 a.m., she wrote: "I love you all - I truly do. This will be good. Thank you for your support!"
In her last few months of office, Palin was clearly irked by the ongoing media coverage she faced. She said the national media had set their sights on Alaska because of her position as governor, citing questions by a CBS reporter about an effort by some Prince William Sound fishermen to have the state forgive all or part of the outstanding loans the state had given them using their settlement funds from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill as collateral.
"This is bizarre. It's also an indication of nat'l media looking at anything to sensationalize (negatively) about Alaska right now ... unfortunately bc of who's in the Gov's chair," she wrote in a Jan. 26, 2009, email to aides.
A couple months later, she was upset that a magazine had found her during a charity event at a Juneau grocery store.
"Any idea how they knew to find me at Fred Meyer yesterday while I sold Girl scout cookies? The scout leaders wouldn't have told them," she wrote. A lawyer responded that she was probably being followed, but it was later discovered that Palin's planned appearance was included in an article in the Juneau Empire.
Palin was particularly irked by ethics complaints that she considered excessive and frivolous, and many of them were eventually dismissed. More than a dozen came in after she was named McCain's running mate in 2008 — including one accusing her of having a conflict of interest because of the brand of clothing she wore.
Palin has said the ethics complaints proved to be a distraction, and that was a major factor in her decision to resign during her first term. A complaint related to the family's travel and the subsequent internal inquiries were particularly problematic.
In a May 2009 email with then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, Palin showed frustration with scrutiny about her and her family's travel and the financial cost of ethics charges. Parnell invited Palin to a police memorial ceremony, but she was unable to attend because she was in Juneau.
"I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. I'm condemned and scrutinized for not being here enough," she wrote.
The governor said she paid out of pocket to repay travel by her family, which was "based on bogus accusations that I traveled too much in the past," and said she paid back taxes for not being in the governor's mansion "enough" during renovations.
"This Juneau situation cost Todd and me about $35,000 recently. The double standard applied to me and my spouse keeps me from freely traveling as other govs did," she wrote.
Despite it all, Palin's aides remained fiercely loyal to her. Randy Ruaro sent an email in July 2009 simply entitled "Thank you."
"I have been asked several times in the last few years why I work so hard. It's very, very easy to work hard for someone when you respect and believe in them," he wrote.
There were relatively few emails during the campaign with McCain, in September-November 2008.
Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for Parnell, who's now the governor, said Palin's chief of staff communicated with her mainly by phone during that period. Palin's Anchorage office director, Kris Perry, also traveled with the governor during that time, serving as a conduit to the staff, Leighow said.
Old Boys' may be filling council seats again
LOS ANGELES:With Janice Hahn moving to Congress, Jan Perry will be the only female member.
By Rick Orlov Staff Writer
Posted: 07/17/2011 07:03:01 AM PDT
The Los Angeles City Council is close to becoming an Old Boys Club again.
Once Janice Hahn takes the oath of office for Congress on Tuesday, Jan Perry becomes the last woman on the council.
"It worries me," Perry said. "And, when I leave office in two years there is a chance this will be all males again."
Perry, who is running for mayor in 2013 and is termed out from the council, is the last of a wave of women who, at one point, made up one-third of the 15-member council.
"I think women bring a different perspective," Perry said. "We are more hands-on and problem- solvers. We have to deal with family issues, raising the children and caring for aging parents. It is something most men don't deal with."
Perry said she has already begun trying to find a woman to replace her when she is termed out in 2013.
"I speak to different groups and tell them that I am here to help them, to mentor them," Perry said. "And I know there will be no shortage of men running for this seat."
The City Council was composed of all men until 1953, when Rosalind Wyman was elected to the 5th District seat and Harriett Davenport was appointed to finish the term of her late husband, Councilman Ed Davenport, in the 12th District. By 1997, five council members were women.
City Council President Eric Garcetti said the lack of women on the council is worrisome.
"Women are more than 50percent of the city, and we will have only one on the council and that could be none after 2013," Garcetti said. "The City Council should reflect the city as a whole. To reflect that, we need more women serving." Lulu Flores, president of the National Woman Political Caucus, said organizations such as hers need to do a better job recruiting women.
"In spite of looking for more women, it has been disappointing," Flores said. "We have tried to analyze it and ... part of it is the climate of politics. Women are becoming more and more successful in the business arena and a lot of them are turned off by politics.
"They don't want to subject themselves or their families to the time demands and being under the microscope that politics puts you under."
Flores said another concern is that not as many women are seeking the beginning jobs in politics that have served as a steppingstone.
Garcetti said he has been talking to different groups to try to persuade women to run for office.
But, he agreed, the nature of politics these days has turned many off.
"Look at the race Janice (Hahn) just ran and all the attacks, many of them sexist, against her," Garcetti said. "You have to be tough to go through that and a lot of women look at it and say it's not for them."
Debbie Walsh of the Center for the American Study of Women in Politics and spokeswoman for the 2012 Project, said the peak year for women was in 1992, when California elected Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Congress saw 24 women elected.
"Since then, we've had stagnation," Walsh said. "There's been a flatlining of women at all levels. Part of it is the tenor and tone of politics, but also a view that things don't get done and they are better off in other areas."
Walsh said the project, which is nonpartisan, is approaching women at all different levels and encouraging them to consider running.
While the 2012 Project does not provide financial support, Walsh said it helps connect women candidates with organizations that do provide funding.
Another factor - which actually has worked both ways - is term limits.
Limiting the terms of incumbents opens elections for offices that otherwise would not have been available. But it also forces out women who have reached a certain political level.
Former City Controller Laura Chick, who left office early to work for the Schwarzenegger administration, said it's important to recruit women to run for office.
"We need to work on a bipartisan basis to get more women elected," said Chick, who also once represented the West San Fernando Valley on the City Council.
"There has to be a way for people to begin in politics and move up. I have a theory on why it's going down and it's that the political system is so dysfunctional now compared to 10 or 20 years ago, the fiscal crisis is so bad, the Tea Party has made things so partisan, that no woman wants to be elected to that."
Chick said it is important to have women in office, not only to represent their needs, but to provide a different way of approaching problems.
"Women, generally, are not as antagonistic," Chick said. "I know this sounds funny to say, but women are not part of the good-old-boy system."
Chick said she speaks to women's groups and is involved in a number of efforts, including the 2012 Project from Rutgers University that is trying to work with women and encourage them to run for office.
Perry said Hahn's departure makes it more imperative to bring in female candidates.
So far there are no women among the more prominent names expected to seek Hahn's council seat.
"There will never be a shortage of men who want these offices," Perry said.
Women Warn Budget Talks Should Not Be All Male
May 25 - O’Neill’s group along with 14 others, including the Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Political Caucus, sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to put a woman at the table.
And the women’s organizations are finding they have some allies on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said Republican-proposed changes to Medicare will hit women harder than men.
“Women often work part time or leave the workforce while raising families. As a result, they have less average savings for retirement and lower Social Security benefits,” she said on the Senate floor, according to prepared remarks. “For these women, Medicare is a critical source of financial security. It keeps many of them out of poverty. The House Republican proposal will end that security.”
Representatives from some of the groups said that women, who statistically earn lower wages than their male counterparts, are being left out of the economic recovery and will be increasingly at risk if cuts to food stamp programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security pass.
Making the Budget a "Women's Issue"
May 25 - After age 64, men earn an average of $31,000; women earn an average of $16,500.
That statistic was cited in a letter from women's political groups complaining that women have been left out of budget discussions, even as they're disproportionately affected. A Tuesday meeting with Vice President Biden, a handful of congressmen, and senior economic officials, lacked any high-ranking women. The letter from groups like NOW and the National Women's Political Caucus suggested Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius be included: "It is not simply enough to send a few privileged men to the table to ‘solve' the nation's budget problem."
NWPC President Lulu Flores can be heard on a four-part interview, "Updates on Women in Politics," on "People of Distinction" with Al Cole.
"People of Distinction," as heard on www.womensradio.com
National Women's Political Caucus President Lulu Flores can now be heard on a four-part interview on "People of Distinction" with Al Cole, a show heard daily on the Women's Radio Network, and uses her political expertise and experience to offer "Updates on Women in Political Office." Al Cole, coming from a CBS Radio background and now principal interviewer for "People of Distinction" brings out a sensitive, informative, and personal side of Flores. She speaks brilliantly on the issues facing women and all Americans in the 21st century political realm.
Listen to all four episodes below.
Equal Rights Amendment Press Conference Held Today
January 6, 2011 - Today, as the U.S. Constitution is being read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Senator Robert Menendez, chief sponsors of the Equal Rights Amendment, called a press conference together with Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Co-Chair of the House Women's Caucus and women's rights leaders to draw attention to the absence of the Equal Rights Amendment. Congresswoman Maloney pointed out that the press conference was even more important because Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently commented that the U.S. Constitution does not protect women from sex discrimination.
Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority President, Terry O'Neill, NOW President, Susan Scanlon, Chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, Karen J. See, President, Coalition of Labor Union Women and Lulu Flores, President of the National Women's Political Caucus also spoke at the conference.
Every speaker cited the recent interview of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the California Lawyer in which Scalia stated that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal justice under the law for all persons does not prohibit sex discrimination under the laws of the United States or its states.
Smeal added that Scalia is frequently viewed as the intellectual light of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court which can all too often gain a majority vote of the Justices. "All modern Constitutions adopted since WWII have explicitly included provisions guaranteeing women equal rights. The U.S. is lagging behind in explicitly guaranteeing equal rights for women and prohibition of sex discrimination," Smeal pointed out.
"We are way past due for a constitutional amendment explicitly acknowledging women's rights in the United States, said Terry O'Neill. "Nothing less will do, as long as sexists like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia feel completely justified interpreting women's rights as unprotected in the U.S. Constitution."