National NOW Times >> Fall, 2001 >> Article
Commitment to Political Change in 2002
by Linda Berg, Political
NOW’s Political Institute a Success
evidenced by the enthusiastic participation of activists in the second
annual national Political Institute, NOW members are preparing to tackle
the political challenges of the 2002 elections. More than one hundred
conference attendees joined at least one of NOW PACs’ political strategy
and skill-building sessions. Thirty-four NOW activists from twenty states
demonstrated their commitment to political change and earned certificates
by completing the full complement of political workshops.
Institute participants struggled with strategies: to sustain and tap into
the anger and frustration from the 2000 elections; to position feminist
candidates to effectively run for political office; to turn on and turn
out younger voters; and to identify feminist candidates and convince them
to run. Looking to the future, attendees grappled with the question of
what true election reform would look like and whether proposals like
McCain-Feingold, public financing of elections, and proportional
representation benefit women.
Back by popular demand was the brown
bag lunch, which this year featured three feminist political heros: Former
Fanwood, NJ, mayor Maryanne Connelley and Florida State Representatives
Ann Gannon and Lois Frankel. Connelley challenged the good-old-boy machine
in New Jersey by defeating its candidate in a stunning congressional
primary upset in 2001. She offered a cautionary tale about the challenge
of taking on the political establishment, but is undeterred in her
enthusiasm for encouraging more feminists to run for office. Connelly was
awarded NOW’s Woman of Courage award for taking such a strong stand and
blazing a trail against great odds.
Florida House Minority Leader
Frankel was the voice of reason during the presidential election debacle.
Her efforts to thwart the Florida legislature’s meddling in that election
made national news, and her insider accounts fascinated not only NOW
activists, but also television viewers nationwide. Frankel spoke to the
NOW PAC gathering within days of announcing her candidacy for Florida
governor. Certainly the prospect of defeating Jeb Bush with a NOW activist
candidate would fulfill many feminist political fantasies.
Offering a riveting first-hand account of the harrowing days in
Florida was former Florida NOW lobbyist and current State Representative
Anne Gannon. Imagine starting out your first legislative session grappling
with the fate of the U.S. presidency!
Redistricting Both Threat
and Opportunity for Feminist Leadership
During the next year,
most states will begin redrawing congressional district lines to reflect
shifts in population since 1990. While NOW PACs often support feminist
women candidates whom conventional wisdom says cannot win, experience
clearly demonstrates a direct correlation between the number of new women
elected to Congress and the number of open seats. Thus, it is critical
that NOW PACs expand its army of trained political activists throughout
the country to take advantage of all the newly created congressional
districts. The fact that there were Political Institute participants from
every state that will gain congressional seats will be crucial to the
implementation of NOW PACs’ 2002 election strategy. And, beginning this
fall, NOW PAC plans to take the Political Institute on the road to
increase its effectiveness.
Congressional districts will be redrawn
in almost every state in the country, and most seasoned politicians are
waiting to see where the district lines fall before committing to run for
Congress. It is clear already, though, that in states where seats will be
lost because of population declines, some of the strongest feminist
advocates in Congress are in danger of being shifted into districts where
they will have to run against other incumbents.
NOW PAC is closely
watching Lynn Rivers’ seat in Michigan, where some redistricting proposals
would pit her against another powerful Democratic member, John Dingell,
who has voted to restrict minors’ access to abortion and supported
abortion procedure bans. In Wisconsin, the legislature may erode Tammy
Baldwin’s strength by redrawing the lines of her district and possibly
forcing her into an election battle with another incumbent. In
Pennsylvania, which is slated to lose two seats, the redistricting process
is controlled entirely by the Republicans, who are aiming to reduce
Several strong feminist leaders are looking
at U.S. Senate races in 2002. Jeanne Shaheen, elected the first woman
Governor of New Hampshire with the strong support of New Hampshire NOW, is
poised to challenge right-wing extremist Senator Bob Smith. Elaine
Marshall, who had significant backing from North Carolina NOW in her
election as the first woman Secretary of State, will seek to unseat
feminist foe Senator Jesse Helms.
In New Mexico, conservative
powerhouse Senator Pete Domenici may be facing FCC Commissioner Gloria
Tristani, the first woman elected to the state Corporation Commission,
with the unwavering support of New Mexico NOW.
NOW PAC Needs
Your Help to Win
These races promise to be exciting, and NOW
PAC Political Institute graduates are already on the ground and ready to
organize the women’s rights vote in their states.
feminist incumbents, send them reinforcements, and make 2002 truly a “year
of the woman,” NOW PAC needs the support of all NOW members. A
contribution to NOW PAC is a small investment in the future of women. With
“W” in the White House, holding the power to nominate right-wing Supreme
Court Justices and promulgate executive orders, none of women’s rights are
safe. Feminists must have a strong Congress to stand up against attempts
to limit women’s progress.
A monthly contribution will assure us of
a predictable cash flow and therefore strengthen NOW PAC’s ability to
construct and carry out a strategic plan, as well as to react quickly to
unexpected electoral challenges. A one-time gift will enable the PAC to
identify potential challenges and send immediate help to friends in
Congress who need early money. Help send
a signal to the right-wing that feminists have just begun to fight!