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Sen. Mazie Hirono is still mad as hell

More women than ever are running for political office. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

by Carter Sherman
Sep 26 2018, 7:30pm

More women than ever are running for political office. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

Primary season might be over, but women on the campaign trail don’t get to take breaks. This week, the entire nation watched as one, then two more women came forward call for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh’s first accuser, California professor Christine Blasey Ford — who said the now-judge pinned her to a bed, covered her mouth, and groped her at a high school party in the 1980s — will testify in front of Congress on Thursday. But the fight over whether to believe Ford isn’t just taking place in Washington, D.C. Candidates across the country, particularly those in races already rocked by the #MeToo movement, are meeting voters shocked by the pervasiveness of sexual assault and by the White House’s response to Ford and the other accusers.

Female senators are lining up to defend Ford.

  • New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “Senate Republicans aren't even pretending to consider Dr. Ford's testimony. Rushing a vote sends a clear signal: They don't value survivors.”

  • Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono: “We certainly have not created an environment where their voices are going to be welcomed, definitely not by the Republicans.”

  • Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar: "Even in the Anita Hill hearing, we had dozens of witnesses that came forward and were allowed to testify. This time all of that is being shut out.”

  • Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a pivotal swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, also wants her colleagues to take Ford seriously. “We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Murkowski told the New York Times. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”

FYI: Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Klobuchar, asked Kavanaugh during his initial hearings whether he’d ever committed sexual assault as an adult. He said no. “So, there is a potential for finding perjury,” Hirono said this week.

Potential 2020 presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is giving boatloads of money to female candidates. “I will be putting more money into supporting women candidates this cycle than any individual ever has before, because if we're going to win, it's going to be women that get us there,” Bloomberg proclaimed Monday in a speech that name-dropped Blasey Ford, Anita Hill, and Lucy McBath, the Democratic nominee for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. (McBath, whose teenage son was shot to death, works closely with Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety.) Bloomberg, the billionaire and former Independent New York City mayor who’s leaned Democratic in recent years, is donating $80 million to Democrats. He didn’t specify what fraction of that cash will go to women.

A Florida House candidate passed away suddenly. Democrat April Freeman, who was running for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, died Sunday night of an apparent heart attack, her husband David Freeman told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In a Facebook post, he wrote, “To all of her family and friends here on Facebook, my heart aches with you.” While April Freeman’s name will remain on the ballot, the local Democratic Parties will name a new nominee. The 17th District is one of Florida’s biggest and pretty solidly scarlet — Trump won it by more than 27 points in 2016, when he took the state overall by just 1.2 points.

Female candidates are explaining #WhyIDidntReport. Candidates' responses to the allegations could sway the outcome of their elections, especially for those who’ve talked about surviving sexual abuse or are runningin races shaken by sexual misconduct, as I reported Wednesday. Several candidates, from Utah’s Shireen Ghorbani to Ohio’s Janet Garrett, shared their own #WhyIDidntReport stories this week; Katie Hill, a Democrat running for California’s 25th District, even released an ad on the topic.

Female voters are far more likely to vote Democrat than they did even in 2016 and 2014. Women have long leaned further left than men, as I’ve reported before — but this year, they’re really going all out. A recent poll found women preferred a generic Democratic candidate by an average of 15 points more than men did, FiveThirtyEight reported. In 2016, women preferred the Democrat by a difference of 10 points; in 2014, by just four. And since women have outvoted men by a margin of several million in recent elections, that’s bad news for conservatives.

All this means that female Republican candidates, already a rarity this year, have to make a pretty tough sales pitch. “When people come at me with the whole Trump conversation, I have to bring them back,” Georgia Republican DeAnna Harris, who’s running in the state’s Democratic-held 41st District, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s not about Trump. It’s about this district.”

Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love went even further this week when shedeclared in a Fox News radio interview that Democrats are out to assassinate her character. (Her very tight race recently slid into some negative territory.) “They do not like the fact that I am a black female Republican doing everything I possibly can to talk about the issues that help people go from the lowest common denominator up,” she said.

What happens after Nov. 6? After Anita Hill testified about being sexually harassed by now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, women ran for office in record numbers in 1992, enough that the phenomenon earned the name “Year of the Woman.” But there was no “Year of the Woman” in 1994. Or in 1996. Or any election year — until this one. Will this “Year of the Woman 2.0” suffer the same fate? NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben talked to a few experts to find out:

  • Richard Fox, political science professor at Loyola Marymount University: "I would say that general conventional wisdom is probably still true. Women are still less likely to sort of think of running, you know, simply and easily, 'Oh that's something I might like to do someday' — have it in their consciousness."

  • Deborah Walsh, director of Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University: "We don't know if this is a one-off or if this may be the beginning of a new norm. But it's fascinating to watch women who are not necessarily waiting to be asked, not waiting to be asked to the dance.”

More than 42,000 women have reached out to EMILY’s List since Nov. 8, 2016, saying they want to run for office, the political advocacy group announced Monday. During the 2016 election cycle, only 920 women sought help from the organization, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights.

“And THAT was our previous record!” EMILY’s List tweeted. (To be clear, these 42,000-plus women are likely not all thinking about running in 2018.)

FYI: In case you couldn’t tell from the all-caps letters, EMILY’s List isn’t named after an Emily. Instead, EMILY is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast” — it makes the dough rise.

Few organizations can claim institutional status with women in politics, but the decades-old EMILY’s List is one of them. Securing its stamp of approval can be a game-changer for female candidates, since the group is a fundraising powerhouse. (It raised $90 million during the 2016 elections.) But it has also faced criticism this year for purportedly focusing too much on candidates’ ability to fundraise and failing to support progressive women.

Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer addresses her supporters in Detroit after winning the Democratic primary, on Aug. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

“I see what’s happening here, and it’s wrong. And I want to add my voice to whatever platform I have to show that we need to give women who come forward support and an opportunity to be heard. I’m watching all of the "Why I Didn’t Report" posts — the hashtag — and it’s powerful, it’s maddening.”

— Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic nominee for Michigan governor, on adding her voice to the #WhyIDidntReport chorus this weekend. This week, she told me, she feels like she’s “ice skating always between rage and sadness.”

Whitmer, a former state lawmaker, first revealed in 2013 that she’d survived being raped, long before the #MeToo movement mushroomed across social media. She grew emotional on the Michigan state legislature floor as she talked about the rape, in a speech against a bill that required women to purchase separate insurance coverage for abortions. The bill passed anyway.

Whitmer is currently leading her Republican opponent, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, by an average of 11 points.

California Democrat Katie Hill has spent more than a year running for Congress, and in June, it all paid off: She won her primary. But with the general just a few months away, Hill can’t afford to take a breather and celebrate her victory, VICE News Tonight found. Even if she’s getting threats of arson.

FYI: This is the third VICE News Tonight episode following Hill — check out Part I and Part II .

If you forgot all of the outrageous questions lobbed at Anita Hill by the all-male, all-white Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, don’t worry: VICE News’ Ben Craw put together a compilation to refresh your memory.

Massachusetts’ Maura Healey has now sued the Trump administration more than any other female attorney general in the United States. Now running for re-election, Healey told VICE News’ Taylor Dolven about talking to several second-grade students about her job. “As soon as a man with a suit walked into the classroom, a little boy put his hand up and said, ‘Is he your boss?’” Healey recalled. “And I knew in that moment that we still have so much work to do around unconscious bias.”

Sexism and racism aren’t just made in the USA. Italy’s far-right Lega party is suing Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black government minister, for defamation after she called them racist. But Kyenge isn’t backing down. “They once published a picture of a monkey, saying that it looked like me. If this is not racism, what is it then?" she told VICE News’ Tim Hume.

Cover image: Sen. Mazie Hirono D-Hawaii, questions Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)