MILWAUKEE (AP) - Democrat Mary Burke is the first woman to win a major party nomination for governor in Wisconsin. She shares a ticket with Susan Happ, who defeated two men for her party’s nomination for attorney general. And on the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is running for a second term.
With women in high positions on the November ballot, here are a few things to know about gender and its role in politics:
WOMEN LEAN LEFT, MEN LEAN RIGHT
In general, women tend to be more liberal in their political beliefs than men, said Richard Matland, a political scientist and visiting scholar at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Women are more likely than men to believe that government can and should help people with such things as finding jobs and obtaining health care, he said. In foreign policy, women tend to be less interventionist than men and express greater skepticism about military action.
But there’s one area in which men and women don’t differ: abortion.
“Men and women are split almost exactly the same on abortion questions, now there’s some argument that women are more intense on the pro-side … but if you just ask public opinion polling, women and men tend to be pretty much equal on that,” Matland said.
POWER EQUALS EFFECTIVENESS
Men often see power as something to be wielded, such as over a budget or another person, while women equate power with the ability to get things done, Beloit College political scientist Georgia Duerst-Lahti said. Women also dislike rancor and are more willing than men to work together to get things done, she said.
As an example, Duerst-Lahti pointed to the women U.S. senators who engineered a compromise last year to end a three-week partial federal shutdown.
“There certainly are positive stereotypes about women, and one is that they get things done, rather than posture,” she said.
JOBS ARE A WOMAN’S ISSUE
Female candidates have traditionally spoken about so-called women’s issues - such as discrimination in hiring, gender gaps in pay, unequal access to health care and domestic violence - because they have personally dealt with those problems, said Kathleen Falk, a former Dane County executive who lost the Democratic nomination for governor to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012.
But ideas about what’s important to women are changing. Burke has campaigned almost exclusively on a platform of job creation.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that candidates tend to talk about whatever may have helped inspire them to run for office in the first place,” Falk said. “What’s interesting here is that for someone like Mary Burke, that personal drive and experience includes a significant business and job-creation record … She’s talking about what she knows and what motivates her.”
A WOMAN IN ACTION
Gender matters, said Peg Lautenschlager, the only woman to serve as Wisconsin attorney general. She said that’s especially true in that office given the attorney general’s discretion over which cases to take, as men and women may prioritize different issues.
The attorney general also oversees law enforcement training and crime victims’ assistance programs, with the power to place more or less emphasis on domestic violence, human trafficking and other crimes.
“All of those sorts of things greatly impact women in very fundamental ways that affect their everyday lives,” Lautenschlager said.
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