It has been slow in coming, but it has happened. Women are becoming an integral part of the major news coming out of Washington and Sacramento--fighting to ban assault weapons, working to beef up border security, demanding high-tech military conversion and planning for "zones of safety" around public schools.
Political analysts expect 36 women to seek governor's chairs across the United States next year. Mary Matalin, the senior female strategist in the George Bush campaign, said in Long Beach recently that women candidates should avoid directly playing on the "female factor." Too much focus by women on their sex, Matalin noted, puts them in danger of being pigeonholed into association with only a narrow range of issues.
In California, with the success of the Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer U.S. Senate campaigns, it is male candidates who are trying to cope with the "female factor." Next year, there will be a gang of politicians playing statewide musical chairs and they are trying to develop approaches that will get them the "women's vote." Controller Gray Davis, who will be running for lieutenant governor, infuriated many women with his vicious television campaign against Feinstein in 1992. To inoculate himself against any residue of that anger, Davis has put together a "Women for Davis" committee, which includes many of California's elected women, though not Feinstein.
There is a certain humor to such tactics. Phil Angelides, a Sacramento developer and former head of the California Democratic Party, has decided that he wants to be state treasurer. He has had Boxer send out letters saying that he is the only pro-choice Democrat running for treasurer. Angelides may find that women have an equal interest in his attitude about the National Rifle Assn. and the economy, and are not prepared to elect him to statewide office on the basis of one position, important as it may be.
Feinstein and state Treasurer Kathleen Brown--who is expected to be challenged by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination--will not be the only women on the statewide ballot next year. Democratic Assemblywomen Jackie Speier of Burlingame and Gwen Moore of Los Angeles are expected to compete for secretary of state. Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin (D-Fremont) is campaigning for superintendent of schools.
At the moment, no Republican women have been identified as contenders for statewide office, although some party activists say that Wilson would be delighted to have a woman running for lieutenant governor. Many Republican women feel that their party has not adequately supported moderate women who could be expected to have broad voter appeal. Of those moderates, state Sen. Marian Bergeson of Newport Beach is retiring and state Sen. Becky Morgan of Los Altos resigned this year.
Undoubtedly, there are women executives and civic leaders from both parties mulling over whether to attempt a statewide race.
For years, my political contributions went to women who were seeking office for the first time. Women were the most underrepresented group in the American political hierarchy. They still are. But times have changed and the movement has grown up. Women are now formidable financial supporters of women they believe in. Major corporate donors and political-action committees have to take seriously the reality that women can no longer be discounted in any race.
Narrow feminist rhetoric and mantras will not be the sure ticket to success with women in the races of '94. Women want to hear candidates--male and female--address all the issues that affect their lives. Politicians who succeed in wooing the "women's vote" will do so because they have appealed to their hearts and minds and pocketbooks.