WASHINGTON: The election of Mary Sue Terry as Virginia’s attorney general and reelection of Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmore are “good news” for women in politics, analysts say.
And the defeat of antiabortion referenda in three New England towns in last week’s off year elections also shows that women’s issues are making headway at the polls, they say.
“It was very good election for people who care about women candidates and issues,” said Ann Lewis of Americans for Democratic Action. “As I looked at the election results, there was not one bit of bad news and that’s unusual.”
While there were only two statewide races this year in Virginia and New Jersey, political analysts said the signals are good for next year when a large number of women are expected to seek every office from the Senate to the local school board.
In New Jersey, a record 23 women ran for the state assembly and nine were elected. In Virginia, 11 women were elected to the House of Delegates. Although the numbers are not in, a large number of women sought local offices nationwide.
Kathy Kleeman, research associate at the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University, said the election of Terry in a traditionally conservative state and reelection of Whitmore for a third term were both “good news for women.”
“We are slow but steady progress,” she said.
Lewis said Terry’s election as only the second woman attorney general in the country will have a positive impact on next year’s races and “will inspire other women candidates.”
The election “sets a standard” for other statewide races, she said, and may help Rep. Barbara Mikulski, DMd., who just announced her bid for the seat being vacated in 1986 by retiring GOP Sen. Charles Mathias in neighboring Maryland.
“There is a role model success story for women and finally, there is a message to people within the party structures about the kinds of candidates and campaigns that will get the support of voters,” Lewis said.
The National Women’s Political Caucus, which has been keeping an informal list of women planning to run for office in 1986, counts nine woman considering races for the Senate, 55 for the House and 15 for governor.
However, Terry Michael, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said a lesson from the Terry campaign for women candidates is that they cannot run on women’s issues alone.
“It is wrong to assume that Terry won because she is a woman,” Michael said. “The diversity of the Democratic Party can be the Strength at the ballot box when women and minority candidates campaign on common interests, not as women candidates or black candidates, but as candidates appealing to everyone on issues that unite voters.”
In other elections affecting women, voters rejected advisory referenda to overturn the Supreme Court’s historic 1973 decision legalizing abortion, Prochoice forces won the nonbinding referenda in Bristol, Conn., whose population is 70 percent Catholic, and in Dover and Derry, N.H.
Nanette Ackenberg, executive director of the National Abortion.
Rights Action League, said the referendum defeats and election of prochoice supporters for governor and attorney general in Virginia, shows a “good trend” for women’s issues in 1986.