NOW Must Remain Vigilant in Keeping, Electing Feminist Candidates

Carole Migden, Patricia Ireland, Tammy BaldwinNOW PACs' Party with a Purpose raised money for feminist candidates like California Assemblywoman Carole Migden, left, and Wisconsin State Legislator and Congressional Candidate Tammy Baldwin, right, with NOW President Patricia Ireland.

by Linda Berg, NOW PAC Director

Although the dust has barely settled on the 1996 elections, eternally vigilant feminists must turn their attention to November 1998. Within a year we will be in the midst of another bruising primary season, and it is imperative that we make sure our feminist candidates have the means to be able to stand up to any challenge they may face.

NOW's power comes from our quarter of a million members who are politically involved and who live in every congressional district in this nation. No other political action committee expects its candidates to take an uncompromising stand in support of the entire feminist agenda, which makes our candidates prime targets for the right wing.

In coming issues, we will profile both strong feminist incumbents and exciting new candidates, giving you the opportunity truly to make a difference by donating to NOW/PAC and directly to their campaigns. We will also sound an early warning when feminist officeholders face difficult re-election campaigns.

This month we profile U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, Rep. Nydia Velasquez, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Cynthia McKinney and Wisconsin State Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Moseley-Braun and McKinney will speak at NOW's 1997 National Conference in Memphis, July 4-6.

Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill.

In 1992, Carol Moseley-Braun made history by becoming the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, and her contribution to all of us since her election is beyond measure. Without NOW/PAC's money and grassroots activists her 1992 victory would not have been possible.

Moseley-Braun had been well known to Illinois NOW for years and was a champion in the heartbreaking fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in that state's legislature. When she decided to seek the Senate seat, but had no money to wage her battle, NOW/PAC sent her her first PAC check.

Unlike many others in the Senate, Moseley-Braun became a profile in courage in the debate and subsequent vote on the so-called "welfare reform." Ignoring the advice of political pollsters and knowing that she faced a tough re-election campaign, she stood up for the rights of the millions of people who face homelessness and hunger as a result of the actions of this Congress.

Sen. Moseley-Braun, the only African American currently in the Senate, also raised the consciousness of the chamber as she spoke personally about the effects of racism and the symbolism of the Confederate flag and thus convinced the Senate to deny special protection to the insignia of a group that used the flag as its emblem.

Just recently, she called on Congress to tear down "a brick wall of pension law" that discriminates against women because it was not written to "reflect the patterns of women's work or women's lives."

Because of her stance on these and other issues, millions of dollars will be needed to defend her seat. In the opinion of most political pundits, Moseley-Braun is the most vulnerable senator facing re-election. It is crucial that feminists rally behind her because no other woman in the Senate stands stronger on our issues.

A Woman of Firsts:

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velasquez, D-New York.  Photo by Beth CorbinNydia Velasquez, D-N.Y.

Among the many "firsts" of the so-called "Year of the Woman" in 1992 was the election of the first Puerto Rican woman to Congress, Nydia Velasquez. Since her election, Rep. Velasquez has led the struggle against sweatshops and the international abuse of child labor. She strongly opposes efforts to dismantle Medicaid as well as punitive changes in the welfare law. As the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Welfare Task Force, she has fought to eliminate the harsh provisions in the welfare bill aimed at immigrants. And she is a leader in the fight against AIDS.

Unsurprisingly, Velasquez's New York district, which was created as a direct result of the Voting Rights Act, was challenged in court. Unfortunately, the federal court struck down Velasquez's district and gave the New York State Legislature until July 30 to draw new lines.

Having experienced previous right-wing attacks against minority candidates' districts, and anticipating future assaults, delegates at the 1996 National NOW Conference passed a resolution entitled "Reaffirmation of Support for the Voting Rights Act." This urges NOW's PACs to work diligently to help re-elect redistricted candidates such as Velasquez. Let us both reaffirm our support for the Voting Rights Act and appreciation for Nydia Velasquez with strong support of her campaign.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York.  Photo by Beth CorbinCarolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

With suffragist and ERA-author Alice Paul in her family tree, Carolyn Maloney has continued her family's fight for women's equality. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the congressional passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, Maloney reintroduced the ERA. In addition to the ERA, already in this congressional session she has introduced the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act and the Breast Cancer Early Detection Act.

In response to sexual violence in the workplace, Maloney worked with New York NOW to force Saks Fifth Avenue to settle a lawsuit against them by a woman employee who had been raped on the job. As a response to Saks' hiding behind the limitations of worker's compensation laws, Maloney drafted legislation that will give employees who face gender-motivated workplace violence the right to sue their employers in federal court.

Maloney, another "Year of the Woman" victor, won her race in a district which demographically is a toss up. Political analysis of the New York Legislature indicates that when Nydia Velasquez's district is dismantled, the domino effect in redrawing other districts will guarantee an extremely tough 1998 re-election challenge to Maloney. The accumulation of a substantial campaign treasury will discourage the right wing from taking aim at Maloney.

Southern Standout
Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.

When the right wing set its aim at strong feminist incumbents in "minority districts," Cynthia McKinney became one of its first targets. When her 1992 district was struck down by the courts, she was forced in 1994 to run in the newly created fourth district with a white voter majority. McKinney defied conventional political wisdom, becoming the first African American woman to win a congressional seat in a majority white district in the South. However, her new district is now under court challenge, and McKinney may be forced to make history again and run in yet another district, which certainly will not be drawn in order to assist her re-election.

Conservative forces have targeted McKinney, a staunch defender of reproductive rights and lesbian and gay rights, and an advocate of the poor. McKinney is also known as a leader for arms control and has reintroduced her "Code of Conduct" legislation that prohibits the sale and transfer of arms and military technology to non-democratic governments.

When her district was taken from her, NOW/PAC made McKinney's re-election a priority. It is an attack on all of our civil rights when the goals of the Voting Rights Act are thwarted by political attack and judicial decree. By helping McKinney amass funds to defend her congressional seat, we can discourage future challenges to her re-election. The good news is that by forcing her to run in another district, almost everyone in Georgia will have had the good fortune to have been represented by this terrific woman.

Lesbian Rights Leader
Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

A 1997 NOW Woman of Power Award recipient, State Rep. Tammy Baldwin recently announced her candidacy for Wisconsin's open second congressional district. As Wisconsin's first openly lesbian or gay state legislator, Baldwin is known for her leadership on feminist issues. She has fought hard for disability rights, the rights of the poor, the AIDS community, Native Americans and lesbians and gays.

Conventional political wisdom predicts heated competition whenever a congressional seat opens, and this seat will be no exception. To remain a credible candidate, Baldwin will have to raise substantial sums of money. Conventional wisdom also says that an out, progressive lesbian is unelectable. We can again prove the pundits wrong by electing this strong, feminist, longtime NOW member to Congress.

You can help these women fortify their war chests for the inevitable challenges they face. Please write as generous a check to as many of them as you can. Additionally, donations to NOW/PAC will help us continue to develop and support such terrific candidates. We will immediately forward checks to the candidates, who appreciate feminist money and NOW/PAC support.

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