By Guest Columnist MELITA EASTERS, executive director and founding chair of Georgia’s WIN List
On Oct. 1, the 2018 mid-term election is just 37 days away. Nationally and in Georgia, women candidates have won primaries in record-setting numbers, cementing the prediction of 2018 as another “Year of the Woman.”
Those primary WINs were before Thursday’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which many now believe will now be a major factor for inspiring voter turnout.
Seated before a phalanx of powerful senators, predominately white males, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was compelling, credible and convincing. Her story resonated with women of all ages who have repressed for years – even decades – their own experiences of taunts, sexual assault and rape.
By contrast, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was aggressive, arrogant and angry as he rebuffed questions from Democratic senators, particularly the women. He showed so much disrespect to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) that he later apologized for asking her, the daughter of an alcoholic in recovery, about her own drinking habits.
Following the hearing, the American Bar Association, whose high ratings Kavanaugh and his supporters had touted, urged a pause in the confirmation process and a further FBI investigation. The nation’s influential Jesuit Catholic magazine, America, rescinded its earlier support of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
It was 27 years ago when Anita Hill testified before the same committee, including four of the same Republican senators, regarding the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court amid an allegation of his sexually inappropriate behavior.
Outrage over Hill’s treatment by what was then an entirely pale male committee led to the election of four new women senators. Media called 1992, “The Year of Woman” as the 100 member Senate was nudged into the 20th Century when the number of women members rose from two to six.
One of the four women elected in 1992 is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Diane Feinstein, of California. She is joined on the Judiciary Committee by three other Democratic women, two of them former prosecutors. The Senate now has 23 women, 17 of them Democrats and six of them Republicans.
The 2018 election cycle differs from 1992 election in a very important way: Women are running for office in record numbers, both for Senate and congressional seats, and in state government. Nationally, 16 women are running in 36 gubernatorial contests, with four running as incumbents. Another 26 women are running for lieutenant governor, with five of them incumbents.
Only three states have a electoral ticket of women as nominees for both governor and lieutenant governor – Georgia and Indiana with Democratic nominees, and Hawaii with Republican nominees.
In addition to the historic first of Stacey Abrams and Sarah Riggs Amico as nominees for Georgia governor and lieutenant governor, there are three additional women on the statewide ticket, all of them well qualified with highly credible and well-funded campaigns. Nationwide, there are 90 women running for down-ballot statewide offices, with 55 Democrats, 34 Republicans, and one with no party affiliation.
Nationally, 3,387 women have won legislative seat nominations in the 46 states holding legislative elections in November – 2.360 as Democrats, 986 as Republicans and 49 with other party affiliations. (These numbers are from the Rutgers University Center for American Women in Politics.)
With a total of 91 Democratic women on the ballot in November, Georgia is tied with the state of Maine for the most Democratic women legislative candidates nationwide.
Research shows women need to be asked, on average, seven times before committing to run for political office. Men, on the other hand, need little encouragement. With that sobering reality in mind, almost 20 years ago, a group of women met around my kitchen table to map out a strategy for electing more progressive women in Georgia. The resulting organization, Georgia’s WIN List, has since helped elect more than 60 women to the Georgia General Assembly, with 33 of them currently serving.
Back in 1991, only 14 percent of Georgia legislators were women. Today, it’s 26.7 percent, making Georgia a leader among Southern states for the number of women serving in legislative office.
In addition to the five women seeking statewide office this year, Georgia’s WIN List has endorsed 31 women for legislative seats long held by Republicans. EMILY’s List, the national political action committee for electing women, has endorsed 26 of the WIN List’s 36 candidates. EMILY’s List is supporting 27 women in Pennsylvania and 26 in Michigan, making Georgia tied for second nationally in this key indicator of support.
Many of the WIN List candidates this year are new to politics, saying they were inspired to run by the November 2016 election results. Some were active volunteers for the Jon Ossoff congressional campaign. They have diverse backgrounds: At least four are immigrants who chose to become United States citizens. The majority has advanced degrees and one has a doctorate in epidemiology.
Together, this group of Georgia women has already raised millions of dollars for their campaigns and knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, often reaching out to voters who have never before been visited by a candidate. They are part of a larger “Blue Wave” which many believe will sweep over Georgia in November.
These women were honored during a reception last week when WIN List presented more than $61,000 in checks to the campaign. This brought the total for the year to more than $90,000. A crowd of more than 250 cheered as Amico delivered the keynote address.
There is no doubt these women candidates, and the women who volunteer on their behalf, are energized and more dedicated to WINning than ever before, after watching the Judiciary Committee proceedings last week.
They want their daughters and granddaughters to see a Gold Dome with strong female Democratic representation and an executive branch where the lieutenant governor and governor of Georgia look like them. They want Gov. Abrams to have a Legislature she can work with to pass progressive policies.
These women are committed to becoming the change they want to see in the world. They are committed to changing the face of power in Georgia and they are committed to WINning in November.
Note to readers: Melita Easters is executive director and founding chair of Georgia’s WIN List, the state’s only political action committee devoted to training, recruiting and electing women to statewide office and legislative seats. For more information visit the website.