Electing Women in 2008: It's Not Over Yet!

BlogHer Original Post

While many women are devastated by Obama's selection of Joe Biden as a running mate, those concerned with achieving higher rates of female representation in elected offices should remember that the game is not over this election year. There numerous progressive women running for office all over the nation. Since an enormous portion of laws and policies that affect women are make outside of the Oval Office, don't write off 2008 as a big year for women just yet.

As Nelle from Refractive Thoughts pointed out in her comment to the news about Biden, less than 20% of Congress is female. As for who is leading our state governments, only eight women are currently governors. Tracey Sioux at BlogFabulous wrote:

America still ranks 71st in the world for female respresentation in our own government. That combines all levels from federal to local government. That’s pathetic.... I want women to be represented by women in Congress and in the House of Representatives and in the Judiciary and in my local government.

The 2008 election offers plenty of opportunities to make Sioux's wishes happen. According to Women's eNews, "149 women are candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and eight women are running for the Senate." In this post, I'll look at progressive female candidates running for the House of Representatives who are participating in EMILY's List, an organization whose "members are dedicated to building a progressive America by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office." On Thursday, I'll write about the women running for the Senate and in gubernatorial races. (I hope that other bloggers will write about women running for office on the Republican ticket, but that is not my personal interest. Please note that I am not endorsing any of these candidates, either.)

There are 19 candidates on the EMILY's List list running for a seat in the House of Representatives. Four of the candidates [Melissa Bean (IL), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH)] are up for re-election. A female Republican from Ohio decided not to run for re-election, and the Democratic challenger (Mary Jo Killroy) is running against a male Republican, so a female position in the House would be lost if she loses. Two of the candidates [Betsy Markey (CO) and Annette Taddeo (FL)] are running for seats currently held by anti-choice women, so if they were elected, it would not change the net number of women in the House, but the ideological balance. The remaining 12 candidates [Judy Baker (MO), Kay Barnes (MO), Tracey Brooks (NY), Darcy Burner (AZ), Debbie Halvorson (IL), Christine Jennings (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Chellie Pingree (ME), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Linda Stender (NJ), and Dina Titus (NV)] are running for seats held by men or against males for a vacant seat, so if they win, that would be a net gain of females serving in the House.

What are bloggers saying about some of these women? Let's take a look at three of EMILY's List's featured candidates:

  • Christine Jennings (FL): At the Daily Kos, jfried wrote, "I met Jennings on an Amtrak train where we had a long discussion. She is bright, passionate, and down-to-earth. She reminded me of Ann Richards. Jennings rose from humble beginnings (her father was a steel worker) to become the CEO of a Florida bank."
  • Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ): Clintonistas for Obama raves, "Ann Kirkpatrick has changed people's lives for the better in the Arizona Legislature, and she's looking to make more positive change as Northern Arizona's representative to Congress."
  • Dina Titus: At the NDN blog,Andres Ramirez tells how Titus helped him achieve his dream: "...I quickly realized that a poor kid from the inner-city could not afford such luxuries, so I settled on a much more modest approach of attending at least one program each summer. This more modest approach also incurred significant costs, and so I began seeking help... One day I received a letter from a State Senator who had heard of my ambitions and wanted to help. She requested me to contact her so that we can explore this further. That, my friends, was the beginning a long friendship with State Senator Dina Titus. Not only did she help me raise money for my summer programs, she also mentored me and demanded that I succeed in these programs. Over the years I have learned so much from her about politics, policy and life. I have the utmost respect and loyalty for her, and admire her passion to fight for her beliefs and her country."

Women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years, and while progress has been rapid when you think of it in that context, I agree with Nelle and Tracey that it's not good enough. Maybe there will not be a woman at the top of the executive branch this year, but by building up a political network, we make it more likely to happen in the future.

Suzanne also blogs about politics at The Political Voices of Women and about life in general at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants. She is seeking submissions for a potential anthology about women's experiences with menstruation at Congratulations, You're a Woman Now!, to which she hopes women of all ages and backgrounds will contribute.

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