A New York Times Poll released yesterday all but declared 2010 the "year of the angry man," noting men are the most enthused demographic group this election cycle, and that women voters - a key constituency for Democrats -- remain uncommitted and "hopeless."
Here in New York, where racist, sexist, and self-proclaimed "mad as hell" candidate Carl Paladino is at the top of the GOP ticket, there certainly seems to be a focus on appealing to angry men. New York's women voters have much to be enthused and engaged by in 2010, however.
Twelve of the Democrats challenging Republicans for their State Senate seats this year -- more than half of all Democratic state senate candidates -- are women. That's the most female candidates we've ever had in a single election, and they represent a tremendous opportunity to remake the New York State Senate.
To support those candidates, and raise awareness about their amazing work on the campaign trail, the New York Senate Dems launched a new project today: 16% and Rising.
Even though women make up 51% of the population of New York, just 10 of our state's 62 sitting State Senators are women: that's just 16%. The only states with legislatures more heavily dominated by men are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
This year, all that could change. If all 12 of our women candidates won, they would join 10 sitting female Senators (8 Democratic and 2 Republican) to make the State Senate more than a third female, bringing with them an influx of fresh ideas and a fundamentally changed dynamic in the State Senate. Here's a quick glimpse of how these women could revitalize our state and bring real reform to Albany:
Restore Faith in Government and End Gridlock:
Americans believe that women are more likely to be honest (pdf) as political leaders, and generally it is a belief well-earned. Research has demonstrated that women are less likely to be involved in bribery schemes, and that management styles associated with women (pdf) tend to focus on transparency and accountability, a willingness to listen to diverse perspectives, and an interest in negotiating towards an effective solution. Research also suggests that when women reach critical mass in a group, those qualities begin to change the whole group dynamic (pdf). There's more collaboration. There's more listening. There's a new approach to problem solving.
Transparency, collaboration, strong ethics: these are the types of changes we need to finally reform Albany. Sound appealing to an electorate that is tired of partisan bickering, gridlock and dysfunction?
Sound Representation for Their Districts:
Of course, not all women candidates are good candidates just because they are women. These 12 women would be strong representatives for their districts because they understand the issues facing working families in their districts, and that's why their districts need them in Albany.
Pam Mackesey is deeply concerned about hydrofracking, not because she is a woman, but because she lives in a region of the state that could be hard hit if hydrofracking causes damage to local water quality.
Joanne Yepsen has been a strong advocate for horse racing, not because she is a woman, but because she is a County Legislator in Saratoga, where horse racing is a key part of the local economy.
These women have deep roots in their districts and big ideas for the 2011 legislative session.
New Ideas to Restore the Economy:
Leaving the economic decisions to the same (male) Republicans who have been representing their districts for 20 or 30 years will not improve our state's troubled economy.
When you look at the websites of our women candidates this year, it is striking how strongly they all believe that New York's economy can be turned around -- and how many ideas they have for doing so.
Cynthia Appleton supports public-private partnerships for green jobs.
Mary Wilmot believes that tax rates can be lowered if overlapping government programs are streamlined and unfunded mandates reined in.
Didi Barrett recognizes the economic contribution and potential of family farms.
Susan Savage has a track record of keeping down taxes while creating jobs in her county.
Kathleen Joy is known for being a strong advocate for green infrastructure as a way to revitalize the city she serves.
They are women with experience building local economies, women who know how to get things done.
For the next six 6 weeks, 16% and Rising will be a place to learn about these exciting women candidates, and learn how you can help them change Albany. It will also highlight the great work of our 8 sitting female Democratic Senators and the rest of the Democratic Majority, who won some important victories--the Domestic Worker's Bill of Rights, divorce reform, more state contracts for women-owned small businesses, and stronger domestic violence laws--for New York's women this year.
We hope you'll volunteer your time with a campaign in your district, or help remotely by phone banking for candidates that align most closely with your own values.
And we know that times are tough, but we hope you'll give what you can to support the campaigns of these amazing women candidates.
16% is only a starting point -- let's raise it to 35% this year!