Women are at the forefront of many of this year’s critical and most-watched races. From candidates for governorships making waves from red-to-blue states, to game-changing senate seats up for grabs, women are making their voices heard now more than ever. Pivotal issues, including equal pay for women, health care, and campus sexual assault are front and center in Washington and statewide with women leading the charge. While the 113th Congress boasted 20 female senators – more than any other Congress to date, women still only make up 24.2% of state legislators in the U.S. With only a few months until the November midterm elections, it’s down to the wire for many candidates striving to change all that and bring a female perspective to the table.
To showcase a year of textbook races for women, msnbc introduces ’30 in 30,’ a new series where the 30 of the most dynamic women candidates seeking office in 2014 will be spotlighted: One a day over the next 30 days. The candidates – Democrat and Republican – have answered questions based on women’s issues and being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Welcome to Day 25!
Name: Gina Raimondo
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: Rhode Island Governor
Challenger: Democrats Angel Taveras and Clay Pell (Primary: Sept. 9)
Here’s the deal: Raimondo – current general treasurer – is one of four Democrats running for governor in the state. She has faced criticism –and a lawsuit – for making changes to the pension system, including increasing the retirement age. It has become the biggest talking point among the primary contenders. A recent poll shows Raimondo leading her opponents by at least five percentage points. A new ad highlighting Raimondo’s hand in job growth in the state debuted just after the poll was released. “This election is about which candidate is best equipped to create jobs and get Rhode Islanders back to work,” the ad says.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
As a woman, I do bring a distinct set of life experiences to the race. I have two young children in the public school system so ensuring we have well-funded, flourishing public schools is important to me not just as a policymaker, but on a personal level. Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and far too many young people are leaving our state to find jobs. I want to make sure that my kids can find a good job here when they grow up.
I also have a track record of being willing to tackle the tough issues to get results even if it means taking on the insiders and special interests. While Rhode Island has a reputation for being a “need to know a guy” state, as Treasurer, I’ve done the right thing for all Rhode Islanders, not just the well-connected.
It matters to have women in leadership positions because we bring different perspectives and often focus on building consensus and solving problems. When I took office, I inherited a 900 claim backlog in the Crime Victims program because the program had been neglected. We eliminated the backlog and expanded the program to cover relocation expenses for domestic violence victims. And I am the only candidate
drawing attention to the problem of human trafficking.
What will you bring to the governor’s office that your opponent can’t?
I do what I say I’m going to do. As Treasurer, I’ve taken on big challenges and delivered solutions. And before I ran for office, I ran a business that helped small businesses get started, helping to create over a thousand jobs. I know what it takes to get people back to work and I will set the tone at the top to get Rhode Island’s economy going in a way that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
If elected, what will be your #1 priority?
Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. It’s unacceptable. We need to get people back to work in good, middle-class jobs. The centerpiece of my jobs plan is to bring back manufacturing jobs to our state; we need to start making things again. For the first time in decades, manufacturing is coming back from overseas – these are high skilled, good paying advanced manufacturing jobs – and we need to make sure we are positioning Rhode Island to get its fair share.
What can we expect to see from your campaign before November?
I’m crisscrossing the state going to small businesses, manufacturing plants, festivals, beaches, senior homes and house parties. Whenever possible I love to have my husband and kids with me. We have a huge field operation with dozens of interns and hundreds of volunteers and I’m so appreciative of all of their hard work. We’re currently running an ad highlighting my jobs plan that is designed to get Rhode Islanders back to work in good jobs.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
My mom always said, if you want something done, ask a busy woman. Run for office with a clear sense of what you want to accomplish and then get it done.
Which women in politics inspire you?
Hillary Clinton. Her determination is inspiring.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
The day I rolled out my equal pay agenda, I explained to my daughter –who was nine years old at the time – that men get paid more than women for doing the same job. Her response: “that’s stupid.” She’s right, it is stupid. I’m calling for an anonymous tip line so that women who are earning less for equal work will be able to report their employers’ non-compliance and an equal pay certification status that will be awarded to all Rhode Island businesses that show a commitment to equal pay practices.
Wild Card! If you could have any superpower it would be…
I’d love to be able to be in two places at the same time. Being a working mom means I’m constantly juggling my schedule to be everywhere at once.
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place!