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 30!
Name: Mary Landrieu
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Race: Louisiana Senate
Challenger: Republican Bill Cassidy
Here’s the deal: Landrieu – the first female U.S. Senator from Louisiana and first woman to head the Energy and Natural Resources Committee – faces Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in a tight reelection race that could determine Democratic control in the Senate. Her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is mayor of New Orleans – a position her father, Maurice “Moon” Landrieu, previously held. Landrieu has distanced herself from the Obama administration throughout the 2014 campaign, including showing support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline and in one of her first ads of the cycle offering a “fix” to Obamacare. The Senator recently came under fire for using taxpayers’ money to fund charter flights throughout her campaign. After a review issued by her team was completed, the federal government was reimbursed.
How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted your race so far?
Women care about solutions - whether it’s at the kitchen table or the board room - women just tend to be more collaborative and willing to work toward a fair solution and appreciate compromise. During my time in the Senate, I have worked with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to figure how to address the challenges facing our state: making sure our kids get a quality education, creating high-paying jobs, and securing a constant stream of revenue to restore our coast. My eyes are on and heart is always with the people of Louisiana and making sure I am doing the best that I can to find common ground and solutions to the challenges we face. I see that in my women colleagues as well.
What will you bring to Washington that your opponent can’t?
I have a proven record of working with leaders of both parties and partnering with leaders from across my state and the nation and all levels of government to get the important things done that will improve the lives of the people we serve. That means getting the job done to provide quality schools for every child, building levees that don’t break and infrastructure that will create jobs and help us compete in a global economy, and securing energy independence for our country that will create thousands of high-paying jobs in Louisiana and across the country.
I’ve worked with six governors and three presidents from both parties, and there hasn’t been one that I’ve agreed with everything on, but I’ve done my best to get the job done for Louisiana.
If elected, what will be your No. 1 priority?
To continue to expand and grow Louisiana’s and America’s middle-class by creating more high-paying jobs that people can build a future on. In February, Louisiana got the most important chairmanship for our state back when I was appointed to chair the Senate Energy Committee. With that gavel in our hands, I’m confident our country will be able to take full advantage of the energy revolution and build a prosperous future that all families can count on.
What can we expect to see from your campaign coming up?
I’ll be highlighting the leadership I have provided Louisiana over the last 18 years to deliver for the state when it matters the most. It is a leadership that is practical, passionate and gets the job done. I’ve worked with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents at the local, state, and federal level to establish revenue sharing to restore our coast, protect and grow Louisiana’s military installations, and keep the promises made to our veterans and our seniors in Social Security and Medicare. People may not agree with me on every issue, but they know where I stand and that I will fight for them when it matters the most. My opponents will have a hard time making that case for themselves.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women looking to pursue a career in politics today?
Always strive to do more, push your limits, and fight to achieve what others say are unattainable goals because it is only when we push ourselves the hardest do we achieve great things. When I was first elected to the Senate, Louisiana did not receive a penny of offshore energy production revenue. But after a bruising 10-year battle, we reversed a short-sighted decision made 50 years earlier that shortchanged Louisiana from its fair share of oil and gas revenue produced offshore. The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act established revenue sharing for the energy producing states in the Gulf of Mexico. Already, Gulf Coast states have received $30 million because of this law to fund projects, and, in 2017, up to $500 million will be generated for the four Gulf Coast States for levees, roads, and coastal restoration.
And after the BP oil spill, I led the Gulf Coast delegation in pushing to pass the RESTORE Act that would dedicate 80 percent of fines leveraged on BP back to Louisiana and the other Gulf states for coastal recovery and flood protection projects. Even during a Congress that independent experts called one of the most unproductive, I worked with Republican Senator Dick Shelby and other Gulf Coast Senators to make that happen.
Which women in politics inspire you?
Lindy Boggs was a remarkable national leader, trailblazer for women everywhere, wife, mother, and a friend. Lindy taught me – and an entire generation of Louisianians, both men and women, through her example – to answer the call of public service.
Throughout her life, she shaped the world to become a better and more just place. She was known for bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats and convincing her colleagues to do what was right with poise, kindness and reason.
She used her formidable influence to help lead the fight for civil rights, pay equity for women and the right for women to hold a mortgage on her own home without the necessity of a husband’s signature. Lindy never tired in her fight to expand opportunities for women, whether it was helping women as candidates for public office at all levels of government, pressing federal cabinet secretaries and agency heads to promote women to senior leadership and policy positions in government, supporting women that work two to three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their head, or speaking out for victims of domestic violence. I learned so much from Lindy’s fearless, humble leadership, and she continues to inspire me every day.
How will you address unequal pay for working women?
While women earn 77 cents to every dollar a man earns nationwide, Louisiana rank second-to last for equal pay and only earn 67 cents on the dollar. That’s why I’ve always been a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and am now a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in our existing pay laws and give women the tools they need to fight pay discrimination. Additionally, one of the first pieces of legislation I sponsored in this past term was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women to fight for equal pay for an equal day’s work.
Even when I was in the Louisiana State Legislature back in 1985, I fought for equal pay.
Check out msnbc’s Women of 2014 Twitter Trail to follow 2014 candidates to watch all in one place!