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Analysis: Women Poised For Gains in MI House

August 20, 2008

Lansing, MI – "A woman't place is in the House...and in the Senate!" This 1970s rallying cry is making a comeback, because women could be big winners in the Michigan House this fall, if the numbers of females running is any indication. About 100 women, a record number, filed for House seats; and almost half the state's November races include a female candidate.

Those numbers improve the odds that the current 20 female members of the House could increase, according to Barb Fuller, director of MI List, a Michigan women's advocacy group. Although the election is more than two months away, she's ready to make some predictions on the outcome.

"I am confident that the voters are wanting change, and believing that women can do at least as good a job as the people who have gone before them. I think we're going to see record numbers of women in the State Legislature after November."

A study by the political newsletter Gongwer finds that women have lost numbers in the Michigan House in each of the past five elections. However, Gongwer predicts that this year the state likely will retain a 20-member delegation and could approach the record high of 31 female members set a decade ago.

Fuller points out that Michigan isn't alone: Women candidates have increased in numbers across the country in recent years because attitudes have changed and doors have opened.

"Some of the things that have held women back in the past were a reluctance to step forward; not feeling as though they were adequately credentialed; not having the confidence that they could raise the money that they needed to win or to run an effective campaign. These have changed."

Fuller stresses that electing women isn't just about numbers or gender. It's about public policy, because women bring a different perspective to government.

"Women don't run for office to be celebrities. They run because they see themselves as champions of their communities -
of their neighbors, of their families, their parents and their grandparents. Women run to make a difference in the quality of life of the people who elect them."

She says groups such as Emily's List provide support to women candidates, and contributions to women by individuals also have increased. Information about MI List is available online, at www.milist.org.

Jim Wishner/Steve Powers, Public News Service - MI