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Midterm Elections—Women Voters Lead Democrats to Victory

November 9, 2006

Against a backdrop of scandal and corruption, U.S. voters turned against the party in power on Tuesday. This time, the hypocrisy of self-declared family-values politicians who would protect colleagues mired in scandal was too much even for male voters. A Pew Research Center analysis of national exit polls showed that for the first time in years, men by a small majority (51%) joined 56% of women voters in favor of Democratic candidates. And those same polls showed that “corruption and ethics,” even more than terrorism, the war in Iraq, or the economy, were seen as “extremely important” issues to voters in the 2006 midterm elections. “We had opportunities because of the shift in the political environment,” said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List(, at a press conference celebrating election wins by 11 women targeted for its support. The PAC’s mission is to increase the number of Democratic women in office. “We are the happiest organization in Washington,” she said. Malcolm claimed House speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi as the “symbol of our success.” In 1986—the year of the first election with candidates supported by EMILY’s List and the year Nancy Pelosi first won her seat—there were 12 Democratic women in the House. After Tuesday night, said Malcolm, there will be 50 or more. The largest number of Democratic women in history was elected to the Senate. Malcolm, who started EMILY’s List because there were no Democratic women in the Senate, was particularly gratified by Amy Klobuchar’s double-digit victory in Minnesota, saying the PAC was the first national organization to support her. Debbie Stabenow “won an overwhelming victory” for a Senate seat from Michigan, she said. And in Washington, “a state that is known for the closeness of its races, Maria Cantwell was able to win with 58% of the vote.” She credited Claire McCaskill’s win in Missouri, where “Republicans tried to draw the line,” to the candidate’s doggedness in talking to all parts of the state in the face of an ugly attack campaign launched against her. Asked whether the women winners were more moderate Democrats, who were supposed to have the edge this year, Malcolm said they were all over the map. Some, like McCaskill, were centrist, she said, but campaigned strongly on such issues as health care and raising the minimum wage. Missouri voters who turned out to pass an initiative for stem cell research that McCaskill supported may have given her a boost. In six states, voters approved minimum wage increases. In Oregon and in California for the second time, voters turned back ballot measures mandating parent notification for abortions. Supporters of same-sex marriage fared worse, with bans passed in at least seven states. But a law strictly banning abortion met decisive defeat at the hands of voters in South Dakota, a story that the Women’s Media Center began covering early in the year, at a time when it was receiving no national media attention. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Fund, which organized opposition to the ban on college campuses in the state, called the defeat a “tremendous victory,” stopping a “draconian” ban that threatened the lives and health of South Dakotan women.
Tags: Politics