Emboldened by the #metoo movement, women candidates across the state say they expect an uptick in women voters coming out on March 20 — saying they’ve already experienced a change in how they are treated and what they see on the campaign trail.
More women volunteers, fewer inappropriate remarks — and a lot less hugs.
From Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold to Democratic Cook County commissioner candidate Bridget Degnen — whose campaign manager Alaina Hampton helped to blow the lid on harassment within Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s political organization — candidates say they’re seeing some changes.
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“I absolutely think that the #metoo movement has galvanized women to recognize that their voices and their stories matter, and that being actively involved in the process can make a difference,” Harold said.
Harold, a former Miss America and Harvard-educated attorney, said she’s seen more young women wanting to volunteer for her campaign, or shadow staffers for a day.
“I think that is reflective to the fact that they’re understanding that their stories have power and that they actually have the ability to make changes and make government more responsive to their concerns,” Harold said.
The movement has also changed behavior towards candidates. Harold said she has seen men being “more reflective about their own behavior.”
“Before they pay a compliment, they will say — I actually had one man say — ‘I don’t mean this in a sexual harassment sort of way,’ which sort of undercuts the purpose of it,” Harold said. “But it at least is a recognition that certain comments are not appropriate within a campaign environment or any environment. And I think that people are more reflective of their own behavior and recognizing that things that they took for granted as being acceptable, maybe weren’t acceptable.”
Last month Harold came forward about a conversation she called “shocking” — urging a GOP legislative candidate to drop out of his race because he had asked her about her sexual orientation using a slur while also using the n-word in front of her several times. Burt Minor, the Winfield Township Republican chairman in question, said his conversation had been mischaracterized — but he didn’t deny asking her about her sexual orientation or using the n-word.
Marie Newman, a Democrat challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, said the movement is giving women voters a voice on social issues and getting women more engaged in politics.
“We’re 50 percent of the population, and we’re 20 percent of Congress,” Newman said. “That’s not even logical.”
“We know when women collaborate and work together, things happen better and faster. It’s just a fact,” Newman said. “It’s not just about getting women’s rights through, or healthcare rights. This is about getting things done in Congress. We work better. And so with the #metoo movement, I’m so glad brave women are coming out and talking about these horrific things because we have to talk about hard things in order to get solutions.”
Two Democratic women running for Cook County commissioner — where just two of 17 board members are women — say they believe more women voters will come out because they’re seeing more candidates’ platforms addressing issues they care about.
Alma Anaya, running to replace Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as he runs for Congress, said women voters are seeing women’s issues be the “main parts of their platforms.”
“It’s something that’s now being addressed a little more forward. In talking about women’s health, the movement, and making sure that women are presented and that decisions aren’t being made without them at the table,” Anaya, a longtime Garcia aide, said.
“It’s almost like, ‘hey, listen to our issues and these are the things you need to be running on or else we’re going to stick together, and we’re going to either vote you out of office or we’re going to be there protesting,’ which is amazing,” Anaya said.
Degnen, running in the 12th District, said she’s seeing a “chilling effect with physical interaction,” since the movement began. She’s now asked, “can I hug you?”
“Even when I was the deputy director of the Medical Cannabis Pilot program and I would go out on an inspection, people would just come up after the inspection and feel like they could hug me. And I would say I’m here on a professional capacity, a handshake will do,” Degnen said. “I will say that definitely since the #metoo movement, I’d say there’s a chilling effect on any kind of physical interaction.”
And Anaya, running for Cook County commissioner, said she believes the movement has given a voice to two groups of women voters: immigrant women and those coming from different religious backgrounds.
Anaya said she experienced a culture of “brushing it off” and “ignoring” inappropriate comments from staffers: “Now I think we are given a voice and to me, I feel more respected, and I feel like people are a little more careful.”
“This movement definitely opened the door to talk about these topics. Women feel more like, ‘Hey, listen to our issues. These are the things that you need to be running on or else we’re going to either vote you out of office, or we’re going to be there protesting,’ which is amazing,” Anaya said.
GOP gubernatorial primary candidate State Rep. Jeanne Ives’ campaign said they “hope more women come out to vote in the GOP primary.”
“Jeanne Ives has lead the charge for whistleblowers like Denise Rotheimer,” campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy said in a statement. “Jeanne hopes more women who have been wronged will come forward to change the culture of sexual harassment in Springfield and the long-running bipartisan cover-up of that culture that everyone who has been down there for any extended period of time knows exists.”