Politics

January 23

Hoping to swell ranks beyond 20, women in Senate help female candidates

That includes fundraising, campaigning and keeping a colleague from a new arrival from eating a bowl of salad dressing she thought was soup.

By Donna Cassata
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rep. Shelley Moore Capito’s responsibilities are familiar to many women: help plan her daughter’s May wedding, look out for her elderly parents and concentrate on her day job. The Republican congresswoman from West Virginia is also running for the U.S. Senate.

click image to enlarge

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is one of several female candidates getting campaign help from women senators.

The Associated Press

“I’m doing what every woman in America does, I’m multitasking,” Capito says.

She’s getting some help from women who’ve been there and done that.

The Senate’s 20 women, emboldened by their recent political and legislative successes, are determined to swell their ranks this November. They’re providing campaign help to the female candidates from West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, Iowa and Oregon looking to smash a few glass ceilings, and hopefuls from Michigan and Hawaii intent on giving their state an all-female Senate lineup.

Two-term Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who lent a neighborly hand in 2012 to North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, will be heading to Georgia in the coming weeks to help first-time candidate Michelle Nunn.

Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, who became Nebraska’s first female senator in the last election, vouched for Capito in a fundraising appeal and plans to campaign for other Republican candidates once the primaries end.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has helped raise more than $2 million through her Off the Sidelines PAC for Democratic women running for the Senate and House in 2012 and this year.

More than just a presence, women see themselves as a force in politics six years after Hillary Rodham Clinton nearly captured the Democratic nod for president and Sarah Palin made Republican history as her party’s vice presidential nominee. That’s especially true in the Senate, where women proudly describe the past 15 months.

Five women were elected in 2012, Democratic women assumed the chairmanship of eight of 20 committees, and two women – five-term Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and four-term Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state – helped engineer the passage of a sweeping spending bill and a long-sought budget.

“Women are now seen as the ones in the Senate who are getting the job done,” said Baldwin, who heads the Women’s Senate Network, a division of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that helps female candidates.

Last year, seven of the 26 women on the Armed Services Committee united behind legislation fighting sexual assault in the military. Gillibrand and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., did split over limits on commanders’ authority, confounding some of the Senate men seeking guidance.

“Men weren’t used to these two women going up against each other,” Klobuchar said, “but I told them they were going to have to get used to it.”

One of the hardest tasks for women is raising the money to signal they are viable, legitimate candidates. The Senate women – 16 Democrats and four Republicans – have heard the dismissive comments.

Fischer, who spent seven years in the Nebraska legislature, counted on a strong base of support from fellow state lawmakers, individuals in education and agriculture. Yet few gave her much of a chance against Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the Republican primary.

“When I would visit with people in the business community, it would be, ‘Gee, I like you a lot, but you just can’t win,’ ” she recalled. “And I’d say, ‘We’ll, you know, I’ll talk to you after the primary.’ And then after the primary, they’d say, ‘Well, you proved me wrong.’ Yes, I did.”

Undeterred, Fischer raised $400,000 in the primary, was outspent 10-to-1 and prevailed over her two rivals with 41 percent of the vote.

Women outnumber men in the U.S. population, with 50.8 percent female and 49.1 percent male, but the ratio is ludicrously low in the U.S. Senate – 20 out of 100.

(Continued on page 2)

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