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By: Melita Easters, Executive Director & Founding Chair of Georgia’s WIN List

As record-setting numbers of women took their legislative oaths of office under Georgia’s Gold Dome last week, the pale male Republican leadership flexed their misogynistic muscle to remind women they were still in charge.

It’s a long-standing tradition whether the men in charge are Democrats or Republicans. Esteemed longtime Georgia political observer Bill Shipp, now retired, wrote a column in November 2001, when WIN List was young and Democrats held a firm grasp on the reigns of state power.

“The Georgia Legislature doesn’t require women to wear chadors, but it might as well. If you want to find a demographic group that has been mistreated, shut out and generally scorned in elective state government, forget race. Think women… maybe you shouldn’t call their treatment misogynistic, yet it comes close,” Shipp said.

Those were powerful words from a revered male columnist who hailed from the same generation as the state political leaders he “almost” called misogynistic. Certainly, at the time, many women did use the “M-word” to describe their treatment by powerful male colleagues.

Then, as now, racial issues in the General Assembly abound even though Shipp’s 1991 column brushed them aside. It is worth noting Shipp began his journalism career as a crusading Red & Black student editor who in 1953 wrote powerfully to support the admission of a black student to the University of Georgia law school at a time when the state’s mainstream media was not supportive.

In 1991, as now, black men are often higher on the Gold Dome’s power “pecking order” than women. Generally, all women of color are treated less favorably than white women. To be entirely fair, any conversation about power intertwines with separate threads about seniority, party and past political battles.

The percentage of women in the General Assembly for 2001 was 20.9 percent and now the number is 30.9 percent. Georgia’s percentage of women is higher than the percentage of women in Congress and the percentage of women legislators nationwide, giving the state a ranking of 19th in the nation.

Last week’s first order of business for Georgia senators was passage of a new rule to greatly limit the time frame during which sexual harassment complaints against Senators or staff could be filed. The new rules passed quickly despite Democratic objections, especially from WIN List endorsed women.

Senator Zahra Karinshak later spoke to explain the new Republican rules were actually more limiting than a first read made them seem.

When Senate committee assignments were released, women were marginalized further, but in a bipartisan way. One of the two Republican women in the chamber, Renee Unterman of Buford, was removed from chairmanship of the Health and Human Services committee, a post she had held for six years. Instead, she was named chair of the Science and Technology Committee, which was assigned just three bills last term as compared to the 121 bills assigned to the far more powerful Health and Human Services Committee.

Comparing the Senate to a baseball game, Senator Unterman told colleagues, ”Ladies of the Senate… we’re not even in the ballpark. We’re outside looking over a fence, and we’re climbing that fence trying to look into the ball field to see who’s playing.”

Senate Committee appointments are made by a committee of all white male GOP leaders, who when announcing the appointments asserted they were boldly “doubling” the number of women committee chairs and “historically” allowing Democrats to chair two committees in a demonstration of bipartisanship.

Marginalization is a powerful tool in the practice of misogyny.

In the roster of 27 Senate committees, each of the 56 Senators is assigned to four committees. The workload of different committees is not equal and only a few committees exert real power.  Women are underrepresented on eight of the nine most powerful committees and overrepresented on the remaining less powerful committees Senator Elena Parent says.

With 13 Democratic and two Republican women in the senate, women comprise 28 percent of the 56 member Senate. Yet, according to Senator Parent, there are no women on the powerful Regulated Industries Committee and only one women appointed to each of the three other most powerful committees: Transportation, Finance and Judiciary. Parent, who graduated in the top ten percent of her class from the University of Virginia Law School, is the only woman on the Judiciary Committee.

It is the Judiciary Committee which demonstrates perhaps the most obvious example of misogyny towards women. Last year, the Georgia Bar Association expressed concern because the number of attorneys serving in the General Assembly had dropped dramatically over the years. They cited, as one example of concern, the fact that the Senate did not have enough attorneys to fill each position on the then 12-member Judiciary Committee. For 2019, the committee was reduced to a roster of 10 and two of those ten appointments – one from each party – are men who are not attorneys. Ignored in this committee size reduction are two newly elected Democratic women attorneys with stellar academic and career accomplishments which far exceed those for most of the seven male attorneys appointed to the Judiciary Committee.

Senators Jen Jordan and Zahara Karinshak graduated from law school with honors, have clerked for federal judges, have been named “Super Lawyers” and currently serve on the state bar’s board of governors. Senator Jordan has won numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and was first elected during a 2017 special election which overturned the Senate GOP supermajority. Senator Karinshak, an Air Force Academy graduate with distinguished military service, is an Emory Law graduate who served as deputy general counsel for former Governor Roy Barnes. She served eight years as a federal prosecutor before being named partner in her law firm to specialize in whistleblower cases.

Senator Jordan was named Chair of Special Judiciary and Senator Karinshak was appointed to the committee. But it turns out the committee is not really so “special.” Last term, the Judiciary Committee was assigned 135 bills. Special Judiciary? Only six.

“This is not about being a Democrat or a Republican, it is about the fact that I represent 200,000 people in this state just like each one of you,” Senator Jordan said from the well in a powerful rebuke to her colleagues. “I bring a skill set which can help this body move forward. If all you are going to do is put me in a committee and not give me any legislation to actually look at, then shame on you.”

Appointments to the 38 House Committees were announced on Friday. While some of the newly-elected women received appointments to committees they requested, others – particularly those who defeated Republican incumbents in districts the GOP hopes to retake – did not. Generally, newly-elected male representatives received more favorable treatment for preferred committee appointments.

Of the 39 Committees in the House, six have women as chairs. However, only one of the committees chaired by a woman is considered powerful – the Health and Human Services Committee chaired by Sharon Cooper. The MARTOC Committee chaired by Deborah Silcox certainly has an impact on metro Atlanta police. But, it is quite fair to say both Republican and Democratic women in the House, like their colleagues in the Senate, are less likely to serve on the most powerful committees and disproportionately represented on the middle tier and least powerful committees. 

Republicans are quick to use the selection of Rep. Jan Jones as Speaker Pro Tempore as an indication they are willing to share power with women. However, Rep. Jones and her 14 female GOP colleagues (compared to a total of 43 Democratic women in the House) are far more likely to “tow the GOP party line” rather than side with women on the other side of the aisle even about issues such as measures to insure women receive equal pay for equal work.

All Georgians lose when the talents and skills of women elected in record-setting numbers are ignored and marginalized. With their treatment of women who serve alongside them, the Republicans holding power in the General Assembly are likely to inspire even more women to run against them in 2020.

Savvy, politically active women have learned the ballot box is a powerful tool. Sometimes, the sweetest revenge is not “getting mad,” but truly getting even by defeating men who hold elected office.

WINning Women resist misogyny.

WINning Women will PERSIST!

 

Leading up to the Midterm elections, many analysts and political experts referred to 2018 as the “Year of the Women.” This proved to be true not only in Congress, but also in many state legislatures as women were elected in record-setting numbers across the country.

Georgia was no exception. In fact, Georgia’s WIN List celebrated the highest number of endorsed women elected in the 2018 election cycle than ever seen in during our almost two-decade-long history.

WINning Women in the Senate

WINning Women in the House

Impacts to the Georgia Legislature

Our 12 WINning women accomplished the following with their WINs:

  • Protected one key Senate seat “flip” from the 2017 special elections
  • Flipped 10 long-held Republican seats – eight in the House and two in the Senate
  • Welcomed one “new face” Democratic woman who replaced a Democratic man

The impact of these WINning women doesn’t end there. With 12 more Democratic women in the state legislature – along with a few other Democratic wins throughout the state – Georgia can now proudly proclaim the following:

The 12 WIN List endorsed women who won in 2018 helped bring the percentage of Georgia women legislators to a historic high of 30.9 percent. This surpasses the national average for women in state legislatures as well as the percentage of women currently serving in Congress.

Of the 73 women serving in the 2019 state legislature, 56 are Democratic women. This means Democratic women now outnumber GOP women by approximately 3.3 to one.

But that’s not all!

  • The election of these 12 WINning women helped flip the legislative delegations in THREE Metro Atlanta counties from GOP to Democratic control: Fulton, Gwinnett, and Cobb!
  • DeKalb County is now 100% represented by Democratic candidates thanks to the election of Sally Harrell to SD40.

How Georgia Compares

According to the Center for American Women in Politics, Georgia ranks 19th in the nation for the percentage of women in the state legislature for the 2019 legislative session. Having ranked 23rd in the nation during 2018, our 12 WINning women (plus more) helped Georgia move up four spots in the national rankings.

Georgia has also long lead the nation for the highest number of black women serving in any state legislative body nationwide. Those numbers also remain to be calculated for the 2019 legislative session.

Georgia continues to lead ALL of the southern states with the percentage of women serving in the state legislature.

Looking Forward to 2019

We have hit the ground running in this new year:

  • Two women have qualified for a February 12th Special Election to replace a sitting GOP legislator for HD 176 who was appointed to the Public Service Commission. Both women have been sent our endorsement application.
  • Recruitment for the 2019-2020 WIN Leadership Academy class is already underway. Find the application and more information HERE.
  • A recently completed “Best Practices” study has been distributed to our newly-elected WINning women to help them more effectively represent their constituents.
  • Recruiting efforts for 2019 municipal elections and the 2020 legislative election cycle are already underway.
  • Curriculum development for one-day campaign training “Boot Camps” to be offered throughout the state this Spring is underway.

Keep The Momentum Rolling

Your contribution to Georgia’s WIN List is an investment in all the women leaders we help recruit and train. By investing in our women, you are also investing in the future of Georgia.

With your generous support, we are able to:

  • Train rising women stars in our communities to run for office or help other women who are candidates.
  • Train endorsed candidates in the best strategies for WINning their races.
  • Help our WINning women maximize their impact as they serve in the legislature and follow best practices to protect their seats.
  • Provide financial support for our endorsed candidates with contribution checks and independent expenditures made on their behalf.
  • Provide technical and fundraising support as well as voter outreach and volunteer recruitment for endorsed candidates.
  • Strengthen the WIN List Sisterhood.

Join us with your donation today!

The fate of Georgia’s elections and energy future lie in the results of Tuesday’s Runoff election.

VOTE for John Barrow for Secretary of State and Lindy Miller for Public Service Commissioner.

If you did not participate in early voting last week, please make your Runoff Election Day voting plan now.

Here’s what you need to do before the polls open tomorrow to ensure your vote is counted:

Check Your Polling Location

Your polling location may have changed since the last time you voted, and it may be different from the early voting locations open last week. Double check that you are going to the right place.

Bring Your Photo ID

You need to show some sort of photo identification in order to vote. This is only to verify your name, not your address. Your ID does NOT need to match your current address. Locate your ID now and place it inside your wallet, money clip, or purse. Here is a full list of accepted forms of identification.

Know Your Rights

Your right to vote is sacred. Full Stop. Know your rights before you enter your polling location so if something is wrong, you can flag it right away. Click here for more information about your right to vote.

Make Note of Voter Protection Hotline

Be prepared. If you run into any problems at the polls or if you’re mistakenly turned away, make sure you know who to call for help. Write this number on a post-it note or save it in your phone. Voter Protection Hotline number is 1-888-730-5816.

Be Prepared for the Weather

It’s going to be cold on Tuesday. Do not allow it to deter you from voting. Instead, get prepared now. Dress in layers. Find your jacket, hat, and gloves. Place them next to your things to take with you tomorrow.

Be Ready to Wait in Line

With limited early voting options open last week, it’s possible you may encounter lines at your assigned polling place on Tuesday. Don’t let it keep you from voting. Here are some things you can do to be prepared:

  • Notify your manager or coworkers when you’re planning to vote. By law, employers are required to permit you time off to go vote.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes.
  • Pack a water bottle and snacks.
  • Bring reading material or make sure your phone is fully charged.
  • If you have a folding lawn chair, pack it in your car just in case.

Check Your Absentee Status

If you voted absentee, make sure to check that your ballot was received and counted HERE. As we saw during the General election, votes have a way of disappearing in Georgia. If you’re not sure how to check your status, please see below for instructions.

To confirm your Absentee Ballot or Early Vote was counted, please follow these steps:

  • Fill in the following in the MVP Login section:
    • First name initial
    • Last name
    • County of residence/registration
    • Date of birth in MM/DD/YYYY format

  • In the next screen, look for the Absentee Ballot Request Information section (2nd box from the top on the left side).
  • Click on the Click here for Absentee Ballot status link (last one listed)

  • In the pop-up screen, the status of your absentee ballot will be listed at the bottom under the Status section

  • If your Absentee Ballot status does not sayAccepted“, please call the one of the Voter Protection Hotline immediately.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Absentee ballots will be accepted as long as they are *POSTMARKED* by December 4th and *RECEIVED* by December 7th.

 

Whatever happens tomorrow, PLEASE STAY IN LINE until your vote is counted.

Tomorrow, we can make history.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

 
BELOW ARE STACEY ABRAMS’ REMARKS FROM ELECTION NIGHT
(AS PREPARED)

When you chose me as your Democratic nominee, I made you a vow. In our Georgia, no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired. But a vow takes effort – takes commitment to hold truth. Reaching out, reaching across is hard work. And hard work is in our bones. We have proven this every day, Georgia. With doors knocked. With calls made. With miles traveled. With prayers said.

We have closed the gap between yesterday and tomorrow, but we have a few more miles to go. But that too is an opportunity to show the world who we are. In Georgia, where civil rights have been an act of will and a battle for our souls, we have learned a fundamental truth. Democracy only works when we work for it. When we fight for it. When we demand it. When we stand in lines for hours to meet it at the ballot box.

Votes remain to be counted. Voices waiting to be heard. Across the state, folks are opening up the dreams of voters, and we believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach. We cannot seize it, however, until all voices are heard. And we are going to make sure that every vote is counted – because in a civilized nation, the machinery of democracy should work everywhere for everyone.

And what lies on the other side of our efforts? Our best lives are within reach: fully funded public education, Medicaid Expansion, raising family incomes without raising taxes.

Every Georgian we have touched along the way understands the power of the vote. And this election has tested our faith. Some have worked hard to take our voices away. To scare us away. To distract us. But we see the finish line.

You have inspired me every single day of this campaign. I know what you sacrificed to make your way to the polls or to volunteer after work and on lunch breaks. I know that you have put your faith in me – and believe me, Georgia… the feeling is mutual.

Tonight should be all the proof you need – that when put your faith in the great people of this state, there is nothing we can’t accomplish together.

This is why we fight on. Because Georgia still has a decision to make. Between division and trickery, or a leadership that defends your rights, your kids, your career, your community, and your vote.

To the voters tonight, I say – if I wasn’t your first choice as governor… or you made no choice at all… know that it is my mission to serve you.  To make you proud.  To change your mind about me, and what we can achieve together.

We don’t need to agree on everything – but I will always respect you and do everything I can to keep you safe and help you live your very best lives.  That is what leadership requires in this moment. And it is how we breathe life back into this republic.

And to everyone who has already poured their precious time, energy, hard-earned dollars, and love into this campaign… I thank you, and I urge you to stay with us. We are still on the verge of history here, Georgia – and the best is yet to come.

Because this is not about me. It’s about us.

Our voices. (repeat)

Our votes. (repeat)

Our time. (repeat)

Because we are Georgia. We are Georgia. We are Georgia.

So let’s get it done!