Women in politics are putting men to the test, on policy — and fundraising

Author: Paula Noonan - July 31, 2017 - Updated: July 31, 2017

Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, but she, with other women senators, representatives, and governors, has begun the ascendancy of women leaders over political and social policy.  The trend brings forward an interesting question:  how will men deal with women not only as political leaders but as drivers of policy and prodigious fundraisers.

All Republican women senators were excluded from negotiations over health care.  That decision by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cost his repeal and replace cause.  The first signs of trouble came when some women GOP senators objected to cutting Planned Parenthood out of the Affordable Care Act.  GOP men senators see abortion, but GOP women senators, some of whose family or friends probably use Planned Parenthood facilities, also see annual gynecology exams, mammograms, contraception, and general health care.

While a majority of men GOP senators see Medicaid as a funding drain and a major cause of increased taxation, Republican women senators, especially three who’ve decided to kill any current repeal bill, see Medicaid as health insurance for many single mothers and their children, the disabled, and elderly seniors, a majority of whom are women whose caretakers are women.

So while the vast majority of men GOP senators support the latest repeal bill, 60 percent of women GOP senators reject it (three out of five).  President Donald Trump said he’s “very angry” about the lack of progress on repeal and replace.  His latest plan is to let the ACA hang in the wind.  But that won’t happen because the same women senators concerned about repeal and replace have a stake in a stable health care market.

The next big tests for women policy leaders will be tax reform and the budget.  Many women Republican leaders are fiscal conservatives.  Trump is placing a big bid on increasing defense spending and reducing education funding.  Some congressional legislators want even more spending than Trump on defense.  It will be an eye opener to watch how competing priorities – defense vs. health care vs. education vs. climate change – get played out among Republicans as seen through a gender lens.

On a local level, fund raising for women running for elected office will put the pinch on some male candidates.  State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, is running against two men candidates for CD-7, currently held by U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter.  She outraised her opponents about 2 to 1.  Democratic state Sens. Andy Kerr and Domenick Moreno are likely splitting contributions, while Pettersen is winning money from women.  She has the support of Emily’s List, a fundraising juggernaut for women candidates.

Cary Kennedy, Democratic candidate for governor, hasn’t caught up with Democratic former state Sen. Michael Johnston and won’t catch Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in fundraising.  But she has a more Colorado-based donor list and beat out both Polis and Johnston in the most recent fundraising period.

The details tell the story.  Polis put in $250,000 of his own money and had roughly 500 donors during the reporting period.  Johnston pulled in $301,505 with about 1,600 donors.  Kennedy received $339,680 from about 1,750 contributors.  Of 124 donors for Johnston at $1,150 each, 91 are out-of-staters.  Of Kennedy’s 305 donors at $575 or more, 20 are from out of state.

Pettersen and Kennedy face daunting races.  So does Democrat state Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush, who’s running against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton for CD 3.  If these women win, they’ll provide more insight into whether women will actually govern differently than men.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.