Washington women are taking the next step toward political power. Editorial columnist Donna Blankinship applauds women running for office.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray suggested a few months ago that I write a column encouraging more people to run for office. She said it was every citizen’s responsibility to make their voices heard and more people were needed to fight back against the president’s agenda.
Apparently, people — especially women — had no trouble figuring that out on their own this year. About 34 percent of the 4,095 people running for office across Washington this year are women. That’s up since 2013, when about 30 percent of the 4,000 candidates were women, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Bravo. This year, several races have been dominated by capable women.
In the Seattle mayoral race, four of the top six candidates are women. In the Legislature, two women are competing to represent the 45th legislative district around Redmond and Woodinville. The outcome of that race between the two women, plus an independent, could decide whether the state Senate is controlled by Democrats or Republicans.
National political organizations, including EMILY’s List, have noted a big increase in interest in political involvement since the last election. The national organization that recruits, trains and supports pro-abortion rights Democratic women running for office has been contacted by 15,000 women from across the country this election cycle, compared to 920 two years ago, said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.
Schriock doesn’t think anger about Donald Trump winning, and his agenda and attitude about women, are the only reasons political interest is peaking for women. Hillary Clinton’s loss also awoke an anger in women who have lost out on a promotion or a job to a man with less experience and fewer qualifications, she said.
Patty Murray saw that in 1991, when she decided to run for the U.S. Senate after watching the way Anita Hill was treated when she accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Murray would not have gone on to become of the most powerful woman in the U.S. Senate if she had not first lost a Shoreline School Board election by 300 votes.
Among the thousands of women hoping to follow in her footsteps, some will run, a few will win and others are just laying the foundation for future involvement in our government. Our government runs smoother when more women are involved, no matter their political party.
A number of women lawmakers expressed similar sentiments to me, while discussing their frustration over the Legislature’s tortured road toward compromise this year.
“We’re able to move ego out of the way,” said Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, while puzzling out why she finds it easier to work with women from both political parties during tough negotiations. “When you have a complex problem, ego can get in the way.”
Rivers says that’s not a knock on her male colleagues, but she thinks women — and especially mothers — are more pragmatic because they know from the start that they’re not going to get everything they want.
That self awareness gives women the freedom to compromise because they know that’s where the road is headed.
That’s why women who regularly make dinner, take care of a few chores and corral kids toward homework — all at the same time — have had trouble understanding why the Washington Legislature failed to finish all its work in nearly 200 days.
Carol Morris, a veteran, a grandmother and a day-care provider from Lakewood, Washington, who participated in a recent EMILY’s List training in Seattle, said she has a lot of reasons to consider a run for political office, including a lack of African American elected officials in her community.
“Instead of us sitting back complaining and talking about (political process) behind closed doors, we have to take a chance,” Morris said. “If you want to make a difference, you have to go forward.”
Amen to that.