In A Democracy, NOT Voting Is Never The Answer–Seven Women Candidates to Turn Out Your Vote November 4th
Iowa GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst only lives about 30 miles away from me, but we’re light years apart ideologically. However, the Tea Party favorite stands a good chance of becoming the first woman that Iowa will ever elect to Congress. Iowa shares the dubious distinction of never having sent a woman to DC with three other states –Delaware, Mississippi and Vermont. It’s embarrassing to me because Iowa has a decent civil rights record, and a history of being relatively progressive on social issues. It was the third state in the country (or fourth depending on how you count it) to allow women to vote, but we’ve never sent a woman to Congress. Embarrassing. That said, it’s not as if other states are electing women to 50% of their leadership positions.
Women currently hold 18.5 percent of the seats in the House and Senate combined, and this year that number could top 20 percent. One wonders how long it will take to get parity with men, but it’s still a sign that things are moving in the right direction. We can only keep that forward momentum if people–and women in particular–get out and vote.
Like many Americans I haven’t followed the mid-term elections too closely, but I’ll definitely be voting November 4th. I’ve heard some disheartened women say that they’re not voting this year because they don’t think it matters, or they think all the candidates are the same (They’re REALLY NOT!). That’s troubling, because when we cede our right to vote we give up our most fundamental power. If women don’t vote, how can we expect to see more women in leadership roles?
In a democracy, NOT voting is never the answer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the major races where women are serious contenders this year.
My home state is always important, not only because of its first-in-the-nation Presidential caucuses, but because it’s a swing state that sometimes serves as a bellwether for the country as a whole.
Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are locked in a very tight Senate race to replace retiring Democrat Tom Harkin. Ernst been helped along by the fact that this is not a great year for the Democrats, but she has arguably done a better job defining herself to voters.
Love her or hate her, Ernst has done a great job presenting herself as a tough military veteran with a no-nonsense attitude. She plays up characteristics that have typically been the realm of male politicians–soldier, farmer, gun owner, etc. According to Drake University Professor Rachel Caulfield she seems to be saying, “I’m from a man’s world.”
Ernst polls better with Iowa men, and Braley polls better with Iowa women by a similar margin. While Ernst has made an effort to emphasize her mom credentials, it appears that Iowans will vote beliefs over gender in this neck-and-neck race.
Another Iowa candidate I’m watching is in my own district. Democrat Staci Appel is in a tough fight with Republican David Young. Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District encompasses parts of conservative western Iowa. If Ernst doesn’t win, Appel could be the first woman to go to Congress from my state.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen seems to have a narrow lead over former Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown. New Hampshire is a swing state, unlike most of left-leaning New England, and Shaheen is vulnerable in a year when Democrats are under attack. Shaheen has labeled Brown a carpetbagger for moving to New Hampshire after his loss to Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race. According to the Associated Press, Shaheen has warned women voters that they can’t trust him on equal pay and reproductive rights.
Democrat Michelle Nunn has a shot at defeating Republican David Perdue in the Georgia Senate Race, although more polls show Perdue with the lead. With Libertarian Amanda Swofford in the race it’s conceivable that neither Nunn nor Perdue will get a 50% majority, resulting in a January runoff. I also suspect the presence of a Libertarian in a red state race might benefit Nunn by drawing votes away from Perdue. Mostly, I’m excited that two of the three serious contenders are women.
Alison Lundergan Grimes is challenging GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in one of the most closely watched races this year. The 35-year-old Democrat is trailing McConnell in almost every poll, but she’s close enough to keep him on his toes. Grimes comes from a connected Kentucky political family and even if she loses, it’s likely that we’ll hear from her again. Democrats pinned a lot of hopes on Grimes, and the idea that this attractive young woman might unseat the powerful McConnell was tantalizing, but it's probably out of reach this year.
There are a lot of gubernatorial races this year, and rising GOP star Nikki Haley is likely to run away with her re-election bid against Vincent Sheheen in South Carolina. Last year South Carolina Democrat Dick Harpootlian made waves when he told a crowd, “In about 18 months from now, hopefully [Vincent Sheheen] will have sent Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.”
Haley is of Indian descent and that comment was read by many (including me) as pretty racist. Evidently, South Carolina voters want to send her back to where she came from–the Governor’s mansion.
I know this will break the hearts of feminists everywhere, but Democrat Wendy Davis is just not going to win the the Texas Governor’s race. Davis shot to national fame after she filibustered the Texas Senate for 11 hours in 2013, in an attempt to block a restrictive anti-abortion bill. Now that she’s a national figure I doubt that she'll fade into obscurity, and I'm excited to see where her pink sneakers take her next.
Women’s participation in politics–both as candidates and as citizens–has never been more crucial than it is today. So no matter whom you’re voting for or what party you support, get out and VOTE tomorrow, November 4th. Your country needs you! Make your voices heard.