Our Turn: Democratic women lead the way

Published: 10/14/2020 4:02:33 AM

New Hampshire has long been a national leader in women’s political representation. In the 1970s and ’80s, our state consistently ranked first in the nation based on the share of women serving in elective office under moderate Republican administrations. Women have continued to achieve leadership positions in New Hampshire state politics. However, a puzzling trend developed after 1992: Women’s representation and women’s rights have been increasingly supported by a single party.

The share of women among N.H. House Democrats rose from 32% in 1981 to near parity (47%) in 2020. In 2008, the New Hampshire Senate became the first majority-female legislative body in the country, made possible by a Democratic majority and then-Senate President Sylvia Larsen’s leadership. The New Hampshire Democratic Party used its growing share of state political power to prioritize supporting women candidates and to advocate for women’s policy interests from “drive-thru deliveries” to protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

What happened in the New Hampshire Republican Party? After 1992, women’s inclusion in the ranks of House Republicans declined precipitously: from 28% of House Republicans in 1981, to 18% in 2001, and to a modern all-time-low of 15% in 2019, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. In 2020, there are almost twice as many Democratic women running for state representative positions (201) compared to Republican women candidates.

There are good reasons that women are running at a higher rate in the Democratic Party compared to the Republican Party. The policy platforms that the Democratic Party espouses are family- and community-focused, mindful and responsive to the needs of all Granite Staters. Women are more likely than men to support public services, including education and health care, according to the General Social Survey. Meanwhile, the once-moderate New Hampshire Republican Party has become conservative to the extreme and advances policy that undermines public services that women support. Under Republican legislative control, New Hampshire has become the only state in New England with a minimum wage under $10; New Hampshire Republicans have reduced public services, public education, and other public programs; and retrenched health care rights to those who benefited from Medicaid expansion.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed chronic inequities in life expectancy and quality of life in New Hampshire communities. Moreover, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. According to the Labor Department, nearly 60% of employees laid off by April 2020 were in jobs held by women. Women are more likely to be caring for children during this public health crisis. This “female recession” calls for women leaders who will advance the public’s – and women’s – interests. Now is not the time to stick to the status quo.

Women are exceptional leaders, and this is especially true during times of crisis. This year, we have made history by achieving an all-female Democratic ticket for the state representative seats for Loudon and Canterbury: The “3 L’s,” Leslie Bergevin and Lois Friedrich (Merrimack District 9) who are running to replace the retiring representatives Howard Moffett and George Saunderson, and Lorrie Carey (Merrimack District 26), who is running to reclaim her seat.

As candidates, we support the work of the Commission to Study School Funding, seeking ways to fund public school education more equitably across the state. We believe the current tax structure should be reassessed because the burden falls unfairly on property owners, that marijuana taxation should be considered as a revenue source and its use is decriminalized. We advocate for accessible health care for all, including those who have lost their health coverage during the pandemic, those who need support to deal with opioid addiction and we want to see the continued improvement of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in New Hampshire. We want to work across the aisle to bring about a COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan to help Main Street and small businesses. We believe climate change is real and that this state should be moving ahead with clean energy measures to create jobs and mitigate the damage already done to the environment.

We have a decision to make this fall, and women’s political representation and the public interest is at stake. If you, the voters of New Hampshire, care about these issues as much as we do, we respectfully ask you to support Democratic women as you cast your ballots by mail or in person.

(Leslie Bergevin and Lois Friedrich, both of Loudon, are candidates for state representative in Merrimack District 9. Lorrie Carey of Boscawen is a candidate for state representative in Merrimack District 26.)

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