Women’s Campaign Fund Applauds Election Night as a Historic Win for Women; Cautions About System Change Needed for Greater Gains

November 8, 2012

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Women’s Campaign Fund (WCF) congratulated the hundreds of women candidates across the country who, despite the many barriers they faced, emerged victorious in their races and expressed solidarity with those that ran, but were ultimately unsuccessful.

“While some races remain too close to call, one thing is certain: women made history yesterday,” says WCF CEO/President Siobhan “Sam” Bennett. “1992, the ‘Year of the Woman,’ was the last time the presidential election coincided with congressional reapportionment and created such a unique opportunity for women candidates. This year, women took advantage of this opportunity by getting to the polls and boosting the number of women in Congress. While we remain a long way from equal representation, we celebrate last night’s results as an encouraging step in the right direction and a much welcome improvement over the current 17%.”

WCF noted several races with historic significance, many notable for WCF’s early angel investment-style support, including Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s Senate race is Wisconsin, Maggie Hassan’s gubernatorial race in New Hampshire, as well as Ann McClane Kuster’s and Carol Shea Porter’s congressional races, also in New Hampshire.

“Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s election to the U.S. Senate, as the first ever openly LGBT person, holds a special meaning for WCF,” said Bennett. “We were the first organization to encourage Tammy to run for office. We supported her when she was considered by many to be a dark horse. We could not be more proud of her.”

“Maggie Hassan’s gubernatorial race in New Hampshire one of the most critical races for women in the 2012 cycle,” said Bennett. “Maggie was the only woman running for Governor in the general election and, had she lost, we would have been left without a single woman governor who supports reproductive choices and options. WCF was the first national women’s organization to back Maggie in a tough primary against another woman. We knew the stakes were simply too high and the runway too short to simply sit on the sidelines and it looks like women in New Hampshire agreed. This is a great example of why WCF’s support for women at the earliest stages of their race is so powerful”

“New Hampshire women didn’t stop there,” said Bennett. “Congressional candidates Ann McLane Kuster’s (NH-02) and Carol Shea-Porter’s (NH-01) victories last night will make the Granite the first in the nation to have an all-women congressional delegation. Carole’s race was another of example where WCF’s early support made all the difference. Had WCF waited until the dust settled from the primary to jump in, Carole would not have had the time to focus on her general election and we could have lost out on this important milestone for women.”

Greater representation was just one of the many issues women weighed in the voting booth. The national war on women and rampant sexism on the campaign trail was clearly on women’s voters mind, particularly in the U.S. Senate races in Massachusetts, Missouri, and Indiana.

“In Missouri and Indiana, women voters sent a clear message that blatant misogyny has absolutely no place in politics,” said Bennett. “Claire McCaskill ran a top-notch campaign, but it was her opponent’s utterly offensive comments about rape that may have proven all the difference with women voters who supported McCaskill 56%-39%.  A similar narrative played out in Richard Mourdock’s loss in Indiana, making beyond the pale comments about rape one of the biggest losers of the night.”

“In Massachusetts, it was intensely gratifying to see Elizabeth Warren overcome relentless and rampant sexism both in the media and on the campaign trail,” said Bennett. “Due to the sheer volume of sexism involved, this was one of the most active races for our sister organization, Name It. Change It., which has been calling out the sexist attacks against Elizabeth Warren from the very beginning.”

Looking ahead to the 114th Congress, however, it is not all good news for women. Come January, we will be missing some important voices on Capitol Hill, including retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Illinois Congresswoman Judy Biggert, who lost her reelection bid.

“We’ve seen what the lack of women in Congress, particularly within the Republican party, has done in terms of the rise in hyper-partisanship and the decrease in effectiveness,” said Bennett. “WCF is proud to have supported Senator Snowe when she first ran for State Senator and we know her voice of bipartisanship and moderation will truly be missed on Capitol Hill. Congresswoman Biggert’s loss should also serve as a wakeup call for women in the Republican party as Biggert was literally the last Republican woman in Congress who supports reproductive choices and options.”

In light of these losses and the long road ahead to equal representation, WCF encouraged women to begin looking to 2014 and to tackling the systemic issues that prevented even greater gains.

“It’s worth noting that while the gains we made as women last night are historic, they are ultimately just a small step forward,” said Bennett. “After all this work, after all the money spent on these races, and after all of the fanfare about another potential ‘Year of the Woman,’ in reality, the needle has not moved all that much.”

“We need to tackle the systemic problems facing women candidates,” said Bennett. “First, they’re not being asked. We need to do a better job of recruiting and encouraging women to run for office. We need to put an end to the sexist media environment that discourages women from running in the first place. And we need to ensure that political institutions like PACs and political parties are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting women candidates.”

To that end, WCF’s sister foundation, She Should Run, is hosting a panel (“Election 2012: Straight Up & Unfiltered) on December 4th in Washington, DC focused on the 2012 election, what women voters, women donors, and women’s organizations should do differently on road ahead to 2014 and beyond. The event will serve as a kickoff for the over 250,000 women and men in the She Should Run movement who are determined to have a more representative government.

For more information, please visit www.sheshouldrun.org/dc

The Women’s Campaign Fund is a national, non-partisan organization dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of women in elected office who support reproductive health choices for all. WCF is the oldest national organization financially supporting women candidates. In the year leading up to the 2012 election, WCF experienced explosive growth in its membership, in large part because of the war on women.