NOW PAC: Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling
By Linda Berg
Photo by Linda Berg
Traveling in a biodiesel bus, candidate Monica Lindeen (top center) campaigns throughout Montana with NOW PAC staff Linda Berg, who provided campaign training, and NOW Organizer Jan Strout (flanking Lindeen).
NOW's Political Action Committee (NOW PAC) met in Washington in September and concluded after an analysis of the pending races that it is a real possibility for the U.S. House to change hands in November and that the NOW PAC can make an impact on some of the key races.
With a pickup of fifteen seats in November, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would become the first female Speaker of the House.
Sad to say, this would be a major breakthrough for a country that lags far behind much of the world in women's representation. Currently, there are only 14 women serving in the U.S. Senate and 67 in the House, representing about 14% of each body. While the Democrats only need six more seats to regain the Senate, and we are working in several important Senate races, there are more possibilities of electing progressive legislators to the House, with the bonus of finally having a woman as Speaker.
Conservative Incumbents Could Lose House Races
A number of strong women's rights advocates are poised to win their district's congressional races. We are particularly excited about the races of Patricia Madrid, New Mexico's Attorney General who is challenging incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson; Mary Jo Kilroy, Franklin County (Ohio) Commissioner, who is challenging Rep. Deborah Pryce; and Colorado State Rep. Angie Paccione who is challenging extreme right wing Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. When two women run for office against each other, the race can focus on the issues—and if we can match their organizing dollars, we believe voters will reject those incumbent House members because of their mean spirited records.
In September, feminist Yvette Clark won her primary in New York and is virtually elected to the Congressional seat first held by the late Shirley Chisholm, and Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords won her primary to take on far-right former state Rep. Randy Graf in Arizona's 8th Congressional district. Other exciting feminist House candidates to watch include: Diane Farrell challenging the so-called "moderate" Republican Christopher Shays from Connecticut, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirano running for the open house seat in Hawaii, State Rep. Monica Lindeen challenging Dennis Rehberg in Montana, Linda Stender challenging Mike Ferguson in New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand challenging John Sweeney in New York, Lois Murphy challenging Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania, Lois Herr challenging Joe Pitts in Pennsylvania, and Darcy Burner challenging Dave Reichert in Washington state.
Optimism Pervades Senate Races
Feminists are optimistic that several terrific senate candidates, including Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri will defeat their opponents, who make no apologies about their opposition to women's rights. Klobuchar, who is Minnesota's Hennepin County attorney, would be an exciting appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee where Dianne Feinstein is the only woman on that vital committee protecting women's rights from right wing judicial appointments. And McCaskill, who is Missouri State Auditor, will certainly work to make sure women and children are protected fiscally from the attacks of this administration.
Of course, we are looking forward to a strong advocate for ending the war in Iraq if Ned Lamont wins his campaign for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut against incumbent Joe Lieberman, who is now running as an independent. Lamont is grateful that NOW PAC was the first national PAC to endorse him and credits us for an early jump in poll numbers that gave his primary race against Lieberman viability. In September polling, Lieberman's independent campaign was winning nearly all of the Republican voters (the Republican nominee was only at three percent in the polls) so Lamont will need heavy democratic and independent support to win.
These are just a few examples of the important House and Senate races, and with so many of our rights on the line these days it's heartening to know that progressive women from coast to coast are well-equipped and driven to win, and that NOW members are helping.
Good News from the Deep South
The primaries have shown that the widespread discontent with the Bush administration and the economy does make an impact at the ballot box, even in the deep South. Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, suffered an embarrassing defeat in his effort to win the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia. And while George C. Wallace, Jr., lost a Republican primary runoff for lieutenant governor of Alabama, NOW activist (and former staffer) Patricia Todd won her Alabama primary and will become the first openly lesbian state legislator in that state. Former NOW National Secretary (now called Membership Vice President) Kathy Webb won her Democratic primary for a seat in the state legislature in Arkansas and is considered a shoo-in in her heavily Democratic district. Arch-conservatives are losing, while progressives are winning, in states like Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas —victory must be in the air!
State Efforts Will Target Women Voters
In addition to voter empowerment projects in a half-dozen states, we are working on a number of state ballot measures, particularly the South Dakota abortion ban, and NOW PAC staff will be organizing for campaigns in states including Michigan, Connecticut, New Mexico, Washington, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
We encourage you to get involved in the 2006 elections in whatever capacity you can, so that we can stop the assault on our rights and continue on the path to equality. You can find more information about NOW PAC endorsed candidates at www.nowpacs.org, where you can also make a donation to support our final election push.
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