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Female candidates achieve higher profiles
Woman-vs.-woman races loom in California, Oklahoma, N.M.
Question of the Day
NEW YORK | The suffragists who 90 years ago won voting rights for women would likely shake their heads in wonder at this election, with its “mama grizzly” candidates and high-stakes woman-vs.-woman showdowns.
The women in key races include a rancher and three multimillionaire former CEOs, one a pro-wrestling magnate. Two frontier states Oklahoma and New Mexico seem assured of electing their first female governors after both major parties nominated women.
Yet in spite of celebrations planned Thursday for Women’s Equality Day, marking the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, American women’s share of high-level political power still lags behind scores of other nations.
Women hold only 17 percent of the seats in Congress, well below Europe’s 22 percent and far behind the Nordic countries’ 42 percent, and the major parties have yet to nominate a woman for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2008 collected 18 million votes, but still fell short of victory, as did Sarah Palin’s vice presidential bid.
“At the congressional level, both parties have a hell of a lot of work to do,” Miss Vilardi said. “The culture is still very dominantly male.”
Among the notable developments in this year’s campaign is the emergence of numerous charismatic, conservative women running as Republicans.
In South Dakota, the race for the state’s lone House seat pits the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, against Republican state Rep. Kristi Noem both of them working moms who grew up on farms. Mrs. Noem, who helps her husband run a ranch, is one of several GOP female candidates dubbed “mama grizzlies” because of traits shared with Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee and a political star who’s been doling out endorsements this year.
In Minnesota’s 6th District, the conservative Republican incumbent, outspoken “tea party” favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann, is being challenged by Democratic state Sen. Tarryl Clark in what could be one of the nation’s most expensive House races.
In New Mexico, Democrat Diane Denish, the lieutenant governor since 2003, is competing for governor against the GOP’s Susana Martinez, a Hispanic district attorney who has drawn attention for her tough stance on illegal immigration.
In Oklahoma, Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who’s been endorsed by Mrs. Palin, is favored in the governor’s race over Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins.
According to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, there have been only two other woman-vs.-woman gubernatorial contests in U.S. history in Nebraska in 1986 and Hawaii in 2002.
Florida could join New Mexico and Oklahoma is electing its first female governor if Democratic nominee Alex Sink can win in November.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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