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“The Sunday Political Brunch” - April 6, 2014


“The Sunday Political Brunch” - April 6, 2014

(Providence, Rhode Island) – A lot has been made about the prospect of electing the first female U.S. President in 2016. Right now, Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the Democratic nominatio; but that certainly could change (as it did for her in 2008). Women in both parties are being talked about as being number one or two on their party’s ticket. I recently attended a seminar called “Elect Her,” which is designed to inspire women to run at all levels of government. So, let’s “brunch” on that concept this weekend:

“A Woman’s Place Is in the House…and Senate” – There are more women serving in Congress today than ever before. According to Tasha Cole of “Elect Her,” women make up 18.5 percent of the Congress, so parity is still a long way off. There are 79 women in the House and 20 in the Senate. California, Washington, Kansas, New Hampshire and Maine have all been represented by two women in the Senate at the same time. Only four states – Delaware, Vermont, Mississippi and Iowa – have never sent a woman to Congress. By party, 80 percent of women in the Senate are Democrats; 20 percent, Republicans. Among women in the House, 75 percent are Democrats and 25 percent are Republicans.

“Take State” – While some women may not be pleased with holding 18.5 percent of seats in Congress, they are doing much better in state legislatures. Women hold 24.2 percent of all seats in U.S. statehouses. And 24 states have 25 percent or higher female membership in their legislatures. Arizona, Colorado and Vermont have 35 percent or higher women membership. Of the total female membership in all state legislatures, 63 percent are Democrats and 35 percent are Republicans.

“All Politics is Local” – According to the National League of Cities, women now make up 28 percent of local council memberships around the nation, and in the nation’s largest cities women make up approximately 35 percent of council memberships. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – the city’s first female chief executive – credited networking. Miner was actively involved in getting Hillary Clinton elected to the U.S. Senate from New York. Miner said the Clinton network of supporters, in turn, helped Miner get elected Mayor. Miner says it’s crucial that one campaign helps the other, because lower-tier office candidates are intimidated by dealing with fundraising, campaigning and media relations. “I will make my team, your team, and teach you how to do it,” Miner said of sharing resources with other female candidates.

“Staying on Message” – One of the more fascinating female office holders I met, was Jeanne Kessner, President Pro-Tempore of the Syracuse Common Council. Kessner spent decades as a TV investigative reporter, before running for public office. Kessner said that the first time you run for office your message has to be about defining who you are; but the second election and all those thereafter are about defending your record. In terms of problem-solving skills, Kessner said, “You don’t have to have a solution [for every problem], but you have to care.” Kessner cautioned potential candidates about promising to fix problems that are out of their control. “It has to be accomplishable,” Kessner said.

“Bipartisan Phenomenon” – Women have risen to power and influence in both political parties. For example, we have had 34 female governors in our nation’s history – 19 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Right now there are five women governors; 4 Republican and one Democrat. As noted earlier, Democratic women are more prevalent in Congress; but Republicans have much closer margins in state and local government. This gives female lawmakers considerable leverage and influence within both parties.

“Why All This Matters” – There’s an old saying that “He who has the gold, makes the rules.” That’s not necessarily true. While men still are the predominant wage earners in this country, women actually make, or strongly influence, 73 percent of consumer purchases. Despite that buying power, women make up only 4 percent of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, and occupy only 16 percent of seats on those corporations’ boards of directors. So while women have been cut out of the corporate power structure, they have had far more success in the political realm where many rules and laws are made. Women’s participation at all levels of government continues trending upward.

“Elect Her” – While much has been made of electing the first woman President, in truth political movements usually start from the bottom up, instead of from the top down. Many city councils, county commissions or state legislatures are now majority female, or close to it. Women have worked their way up the political food chain, and many who are now in Congress served at the local and state level first. So, “Elect Her” is a pioneering program, being offered at 50 universities this year, including Syracuse, where I participated. Many women get their first taste of political office in college student governments. "Elect Her" is sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start. For more information, go to:

What are your thoughts and opinions about the rise of women in politics at all levels? Just click the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy:

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 30, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) -- Political sage and noted statistician Nate Silver is now predicting that Republicans will take over the U.S. Senate this year, but just barely. It has been awhile since we discussed where the Senate stands, so let’s chew on that for “Brunch” this week:

“The Math” – Republicans needs a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. While they are leading in some open states - and are threatening some Democratic incumbents - Republicans need to be careful because some of their own members are vulnerable to defeat, including Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). In the latest Survey USA Poll, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes leads McConnell, 46 percent to 42 percent. It would be odd, but the GOP could take control of the Senate, but lose its leader in the process. Ironic!

“Carolina in the Pines” – One of the most interesting races to watch is in North Carolina. Six years ago, Democrat Kay Hagan unseated Republican Senator and two-time cabinet member Elizabeth Dole, a political legend. Dole’s campaign ran an ill-fated political ad questioning the religiosity of Hagan (who was a Sunday school teacher). It backfired big-time. But Hagan’s first term has been unremarkable and she is vulnerable. The latest Public Policy Poll has Hagan in a virtual tie with every potential Republican opponent. The state is “must win” if the GOP wants the Senate back.

“It’s a ‘Gimmie’” – The Republican’s easiest pick-up is likely to be in the State of Montana where the long-time Democratic incumbent Max Baucus left to become Ambassador to China. Republican Rep. Steve Daines leads Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh by 14 percentage points in the latest poll from Rasmussen Reports.

“Pryor Record” – By all rights, Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) ought to be a shoo-in for reelection. He has a famous name in Arkansas, where his dad David Pryor also served as Senator and Governor. But Mark Pryor’s unwavering support for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, has left him vulnerable. Most polls have Pryor tied with Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), in a state that Republicans have carried in every Presidential election since 2000. Bill Clinton’s home state turns more to the right every year.

“Georgia on My Mind” – As mentioned earlier, Republicans cannot get too cocky or overconfident about their chances of taking control of the Senate. Nate Silver only has them winning by one seat right now and admits a surge by Democrats could keep them in charge. The real race to watch is in Georgia, where several Republicans are vying to succeed retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss, including a sitting Congressman and a former Governor. The Democratic opponent will be Michelle Nunn, daughter of legendary U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. She even spent time working for the Bush family’s foundation, so she can make bipartisan claims in a state where it could make a difference.

“The Wild Cards” – I’ve specifically addressed some of the key races, but there are several other states to watch that could turn the tide, including West Virginia, Michigan, Alaska and South Dakota. This is going to be a wacky year, so hang on tight!

“The Stakes” – Control of the Senate might help end gridlock and divided government on a lot of issues, including long term budget matters and immigration reform. President Obama might work to sign compromises on both of those issues as part of his lasting legacy, as he becomes a lame duck. But even if the GOP takes control of both houses of Congress, not much will happen with Obamacare. That’s because the President can veto any major overhauls to his signature piece of legislation, and Republicans won’t have big enough Congressional majorities to override his vetoes.

Who is leading in your state? Let us know your picks by clicking the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: U.S. Senate

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