April 22, 2012

Women emerge as a force in Election 2012

Women's reproductive health issues, like contraception and abortion, are likely to be at the forefront of the race to replace Sen. OIympia Snowe.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Jayne Leiner, 58, of Cape Elizabeth: “I will not vote for a candidate who doesn’t take women’s issues seriously.”

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Emily Baer, 26, of Portland: “Any candidate who ... limits women’s rights in any way is off my radar.”

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There is little data on the size of the gender gap in Maine, according to political scientists here. The state does not track party registration by gender, and detailed polling data has been limited. However, political scientists say the phenomenon does tend to help Democratic candidates here and is one reason Maine has voted Democratic in the past five presidential elections.

"In a traditional two-party race, (the gender gap) would be a Democratic advantage," said Emily Shaw, an assistant professor of political science at Thomas College in Waterville who has studied gender politics.

Maine's electorate also leans more toward protecting access to contraception and abortion.

A recent Gallup poll found Maine is the third least religious state, after Vermont and New Hampshire, with just 25 percent of Mainers classified as very religious. In Mississippi, the most devout state, 59 percent of voters are considered very religious.

That makes it difficult for socially conservative candidates to win national office here, said Shaw. "You don't have that automatic evangelical base."

Maine is one of just four states with two women senators. The others are New Hampshire, California and Washington.

Two women are running to replace Snowe -- state Sen. Debra Plowman, R-Hampden, and state Sen. Cynthia Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth. But simply being a woman is not enough to claim the female vote, the experts and voters agree.

"It would be nice to replace Olympia with a woman simply because there really aren't that many women senators, or congresswomen overall," Ciocca said. But, she said, "it's more about the issues that matter to me. I'm not going to vote for someone just because she's a woman."

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:



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Nancy Ciocca, 61, of South Portland says she will vote for someone who stands up for women’s health choices.

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