By Stephanie Schriock, President, EMILY’s List
Republicans have declared war on women — congressional panels discuss birth control with no women in sight, and GOP-led legislatures all over the country are finding more creative ways to limit our access to health care. In this environment, you couldn’t blame women for deciding that politics was not for them. There are some folks out there with reports suggesting that women are shying away from public office, not interested in running. But, frankly, the truth is far different.
I come from Montana, where individual liberty is a pretty big deal. And the right to take care of yourself is something we hold pretty dear. So I know how mad I got when Republicans started trying to chip away at my ability to make my own health care decisions, and I know I’m not the only woman who felt that way.
Rather than standing down, women are stepping forward in greater numbers than ever — as activists, as donors, and as candidates. In fact, 2012 is actually poised to be a historic year for women candidates.
Right now, there are 15 women running for the U.S. Senate, which is a record-breaking number. At EMILY’s List, we’ve made our own history by endorsing 11 of those women. To put those numbers in perspective, there are only 33 Senate seats up for election in 2012. That means that one in three Senate races this year involves an EMILY’s List-endorsed candidate. Our six incumbents up for reelection are in excellent shape running on their record of leadership over the past six years. And all five of our Senate challengers are ready to break glass ceilings — each would be the first woman senator to represent her state.
And it’s not just the Senate. We’re seeing women all across the country putting together strong campaigns at all levels, especially in the House. More women are stepping up to run for Congress every day. Pro-choice Democratic women are ready to oust the Tea Partiers, who promised to work on jobs and the economy, but pulled a bait-and-switch and launched an all-out attack on women’s rights instead.
In just this past year alone, EMILY’s List helped to add three more pro-choice Democratic women to congress through special elections. Electing Kathy Hochul, Janice Hahn and Suzanne Bonamici to the House of Representatives not only added more voices for women across the country, but also completely reversed the decline in the number of women in Congress we saw in 2010. Now, we are ready to gain some ground.
This Republican War on Women has driven women into the political process in a way we’ve never seen before. Women are not only stepping up as candidates, but as donors and as voters. At EMILY’s List, we’ve seen our community surpass more than one million members and more than double since the GOP took control of the House in 2011.
Poll after poll has shown women shying away from the Republicans’ divisive and restrictive agenda. Women will be the deciding voters in the 2012 elections. And thanks to the incredible number of outstanding female candidates running for office this year, there’s a compelling progressive alternative to that regressive agenda. Women candidates don’t want to turn back the clock on our rights; they want to focus on issues like jobs, the economy, and problems affecting families across the country.
So, where are the women? They are leaders in the House and Senate; they are working in legislatures across the country, and an incredible number of others are stepping up to join them. And come January 2013, we’re expecting to see a record number of Democratic women serving in the halls of our nation’s capitol.