The ultimate outsiders

October 07, 1992

Women, who represent only 6 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives and 2 percent of the U.S. Senate (not counting a recently appointed widow who is not a candidate in the special election to fill her late husband's seat), are the ultimate political outsiders. And in this, the year of the outsider, women seem likely to make great gains. There is a possibility that the number of women representatives will nearly double from the present 29. There is a possibility that the number of elected women senators will more than double.

Nowhere is voters' anger at incumbents -- the ultimate insiders -- more pronounced than in the largest state, California. And nowhere are women showing greater strength. Polls there show the incumbent governor gets a 77-19 percent negative rating, the state legislature gets an 84-11 negative rating, and Congress, 86-12 negative. And that other incumbent, President George Bush, is so far behind Bill Clinton in California (33-58 percent), that the president may be the first Republican since 1964 to write off the state.

Women are candidates for election to the House in 19 of the state's 52 congressional districts. Women are candidates for both Senate seats. Dianne Feinstein is running against Sen. John Seymour, appointed until a special election could be held; Barbara Boxer is running against Bruce Herschensohn. Not only are they candidates, but they are leading their male opponents in the polls by significant margins -- about 20 percent in each case. Voters are breaking new ground and old stereotypes in California. Not only are they telling pollsters they'll vote for two women, but two Jewish women, two liberals, two Democrats, two residents of the northern part of the state.

In California as in many other men vs. women races around the country, women are benefiting from a gender gap: Women are voting disproportionately for women candidates. But male voters are angry at insiders, too, this year. According to pollsters, in California as in many other states, women candidates are getting about half or more of the male voters' support.

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