This weekend I attended the Eastside Democratic Women’s celebration in honor of Women’s Equality Day at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center. A panel of Democratic women candidates and elected officials convened for a panel and an information fair on women candidates and advocates for progressive and pro-choice issues.
The panel discussion was moderated by Laura Latta and featured candidate for 1st congressional district Suzan DelBene, candidate for Secretary of State Kathleen Drew, candidate for the 41st legislative district Maureen Judge, Redmond City Councilmember Kimberly Allen, Director of Progressive Majority and candidate for the 36th legislative district Noel Frame, and candidate for Washington Supreme Court Sheryl Gordon McCloud.
The candidates’ discussion focused on how to get more women candidates elected and on how the extreme attacks on reproductive rights are playing a huge role in elections.
The panel discussion many times referenced the 1992 “Year of the Woman” so named because women voters and a record number of women candidates translated into a 70 percent increase in the number of women in Congress. All the panelists expressed commitment to encouraging more young women and women of color to pursue elected office. They discussed a few of the difficulties of getting more women candidates in the field.
Kathleen Drew shared the story of meeting Patty Murray in 1992 while contemplating her run for state Senate in the 5th legislative district. She recalls saying to her “I have a four year old son. I don’t know if I can do this.” Senator Murray, in the process of launching her own run for U.S. Senate replied, “that’s why you have to run. No one else is bringing that perspective to the table.”
Noel Frame echoed this sentiment when she reminded us she convinces people to run for office for a living at Progressive Majority and yet admitted to having a hard time saying yes to running because it was “not a good time for my family.” She spoke to the recent launch of the Progressive Women’s Network of Washington.
The candidates, all pro-choice, testified to how extreme the attacks on reproductive rights have become. Maureen Judge highlighted the difference between saying you support reproductive rights and actually championing those rights. “My opponent said he supported the Reproductive Parity Act but when given the opportunity voted against it three times. He is not a pro-choice champion.”
Susan DelBene agreed that attacks on women’s health have become more extreme. She referenced the Akin hot mess to express shock at the fact that qualifiers are being added to the definition of rape. Cuz yeah, that’s crazy.
So what do readers think? How do we get more women candidates to run for office? How can NARAL Pro-Choice Washington help move toward this kind of equity?