In The Loop – June 21, 2024

“It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it.” Former Governor Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut, the first woman elected without succeeding her husband, exemplified this belief in active participation and leadership. Another Connecticut Governor, M. Jodi Rell, echoed this sentiment 44 years later, emphasizing ethics and reform. She stated, “I believe in the power of women. We can make a difference, and we can do it while holding true to our values and principles.”

These quotes highlight their leadership perspectives and the vital role women play in politics.

Twenty years later, after Governor Rell prepared to take office after Governor Rowland’s resignation, I spent a day focused on women in elected office. In the morning, I attended The Campaign School at Yale University (TCSYale), an immersive training program dedicated to political parity. TCSYale, renowned for its rigorous, bi-partisan, issue-neutral training, aims to increase the number and influence of women in political roles.

As a longtime supporter, I attended as a guest of Executive Director Patti Russo. The intellectually challenging agenda featured impactful real-life stories and mentoring opportunities. The New York Times describes TCSYale’s Summer Session as “sadistically intensive,” a five-day boot camp for candidates and campaign operatives.

During this event, Connecticut’s Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz shared her first steps in political leadership, emphasizing the importance of door-knocking. This helped her win her first state legislature race in 1991 by besting the long-time politico in a primary.

Later that day, I attended an event sponsored by the International Women’s Forum – CT Chapter IWF-CT) in West Hartford at the Town Hall. A panel of 2 state legislators –Rep Hilda Santiago (D) from Meriden and Rep Christie Carpino(R ) from Cromwell /Portland with a third panelist Michelle Scott, Tribal Council Leader for the Pequot tribe was moderated by former WH Town Councilwomen Judy Casperson. She led them through their stories of engagement, shared stories about what it takes once you get elected, and described some of the struggles in really making an impact. Once again – tales of door-knocking – prevailed!

According to a CT Mirror report, “during the 1970s, women held anywhere from 18 to 37 seats in Connecticut’s 187-seat legislature, wielding no more than a fifth of voting power. It took until 2018 for there to be at least 60 women legislators, about a third of the General Assembly, according to data compiled by the secretary of the state’s office. As the 2024 legislative session draws near, there are currently 70 women lawmakers among the 186 filled seats. A special election in West Haven later this month could increase that number. So while women make up over half (51%) of Connecticut residents, according to Census data, they only have a 37% share of seats across the legislature.”

What’s that about?

What strikes me is that maybe there are no” women’s issues” or “men’s issues” – maybe just CT issues.

But let’s not forget that most of the major committees in the CT General Assembly are co-chaired by women legislators – Finance, Environment, Commerce, Education, and Appropriations to name a few.

However, challenges persist. TCSYale highlights that women still face gender bias, high campaigning costs, and work-life balance issues. Public financing of political campaigns, introduced by Governor Rell, has improved the chances for female candidates especially those running for their first term.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright famously said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” This underscores the importance of women supporting each other in leadership roles. As we approach another fall election for Connecticut State Senators and Representatives, we recognize past progress and look forward to a future with well-coached, educated women candidates.

Go get ‘em, ladies! Good Luck and don’t forget to door knock! READ THE FULL IN THE LOOP HERE

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