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National NOW Times >> Spring 2002 >> Article

Electing Feminist Governors: A Win-Win Proposition

by Linda Berg, Political Director

Over the last quarter century, four out of five U.S. Presidents were governors before they ran for the highest position in the country. If we want our next commander in chief to be a feminist, or even — gasp! — a woman, we must start electing strong women's rights supporters as our states' governors now.

Last November, New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and Virginia Governor Mark Warner scored decisive victories over anti-women's rights candidates in races we hope will be bellwethers for the 2002 elections. In the first electoral test of George W. Bush's popularity after September 11, both governors' houses — which for years had been controlled by Republicans — fell to the more progressive candidate.

McGreevey, who was endorsed by New Jersey NOW PAC, is "very good on NOW's issues," exulted NJ NOW PAC Chair Elizabeth Volz. Because Democrat Mark Warner was not forthcoming with the full range of his positions when asked by Virginia NOW, members concentrated on defeating the clearly anti-woman Republican candidate Mark Earley, according to Virginia NOW Coordinator Connie Hannah.

If progressives can get out the vote, 2002 could become the Year of the Feminist Governor. Although there are many primary and general election obstacles to overcome, we could see a feminist woman in the governor's mansions in Kansas, Maryland, New Hampshire, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"It's a win-win situation when more feminist women lead our states," said NOW Political Action Committee (PAC) Treasurer Terry O'Neill. "The people of the state benefit and more women move into position to someday run for president."

Pennsylvania, which has long had one of the most stridently anti-reproductive rights legislatures, may elect a "pro-choice" man as Democratic governor. We also already know of feminist men who are running strong governor's races in Maine, Vermont, New Mexico, California, Illinois and New York. NOW's many years of electoral work, getting feminists into the pipeline at the chapter, state and national levels, is paying off in a spectacular way.

Since 1977, the year that NOW first established a PAC to assume a "leadership role in direct political action in order to elect feminists to office," NOW chapters and states have actively been identifying, recruiting, running and electing feminist candidates. Recognizing that filling the political pipeline with feminists will help protect our rights, we have also launched recruitment campaigns in many states and waged national Elect Women for a Change and Victory 2000 campaigns. These activities have resulted in the election of a record number of feminists throughout the nation. The extensive political resumes of the feminist women seeking governorships this year demonstrates the wisdom of our approach.

NOW PAC is launching a new campaign — "VOTE NOW FOR A CHANGE" — because we know that when women vote on women's issues, feminists win. We are hard at work developing a new line of chapter political organizing materials and will devote the third annual National Political Institute this summer in St. Paul, Minn., to crucial organizing skills.

"Every right we hold dear is at stake in this election," said O'Neill. "With right-wing zealots at work in Congress, and the fate of the Senate and the Supreme Court in question, it is more crucial than ever to have women's rights supporters at every level of our government."

If you're a NOW member and would like to make a gift to the NOW/PAC or a monthly pledge to support our work, please fill out the coupon at right. If you want information about this summer's Political Institute, contact Linda Berg by email at political.director@now.org or call 202- 628-8669, ext. 121.


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