March 16, 2010

Women form group to back bid by Rowe

The Democrats say the ex-state attorney general has the best record on many issues.

By SUSAN M. COVER Kennebec Journal

PORTLAND - Former Senate President Beth Edmonds is leading a group of women who are supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Rowe, a former state attorney general.

Edmonds and about 30 other women gathered Monday morning at Amore Styles, a hair salon in downtown Portland. They said Rowe's work on domestic violence, early childhood education and elder-abuse issues make him the best of the five Democrats on June's primary ballot.

"He's my kind of leader," Edmonds said. "He listens, he thinks and then he acts with the best interest of the state of Maine in mind."

The endorsement is interesting, given that two of the five Democrats running for governor are women: Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell of Vassalboro and Rosa Scarcelli of Portland.

Maine has never had a female governor.

Edmonds, a Democrat from Freeport who was Senate president from 2004 to 2008, is a self-described feminist who said she will take an active role to convince women to support Rowe.

She said 1,500 women are part of "Women Roweing," an effort that will continue with events and house parties, and on the Internet.

"It's very important when you have people who, in their hearts, think, 'Oh great, a woman governor,' and don't think things through," Edmonds said. "Yes, this would be great, but now, at this time, this is the man."

The women backing Rowe include Betsy Sweet, a prominent State House lobbyist; Stephanie Cotsirilos, a lawyer in Orono; and University of Southern Maine professor Michelle Vazquez-Jacobus.

Reaching out specifically to female voters is a smart move, especially early in a campaign, said Sarah Standiford, executive director of the Maine Women's Lobby, which does not endorse candidates for office.

Statistics provided by Standiford show that women outvoted men in the past three primaries, 53 percent to 47 percent. She said women also take more time to decide who they want to support, and often ask for more information than men when making up their minds.

Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine, said most politicians look at the electorate as "a collection of groups" and it's a good idea to reach out to various segments.

"I'm of the opinion that when individuals look at how they want to vote, group identity plays a big part," he said. "I think it's a smart choice for Rowe to be cultivating women as a group."

Mitchell said she has been working on issues that are important to women since she was first elected to the House, in 1974.

She said women want the same thing as men: good jobs, a good educational system and health care.

Mitchell said she's "disappointed" that a group of women is actively supporting Rowe, but respects their decision.

"We've never had a woman governor," she said. "If not now, when? If not me, who?"

Scarcelli, who owns a housing company, thinks she just might be the answer.

She said she hasn't separated voters into distinct blocs, and said Rowe's efforts are part of "an old playbook."

"I've been struck by how many men say, 'Boy, it's time for a woman,'" she said. "We need to do things differently."

Rowe, who was joined at Monday's announcement by his wife and daughter, said the role models in his life have been women -- particularly his mother and his wife, Amanda.

"Women are the ones who get things done," he said. "It's as simple as that. I listen to them and then make decisions based on the guidance."


MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:


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