HuffPost/RGJ panel on women in politics: ‘Women will come out to vote’ this November


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that Republicans have a longstanding gender gap when it comes to women voters, but he told the AP “nobody’s going to beat” Sen. Lisa Murkowski despite her opposition to Brett Kavanaugh. (Oct. 10) AP

Women are taking over politics.

That was the message behind a bi-partisan panel discussion about women in politics, which was held Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Four panelists delivered a message of empowerment to all women and encouraged them to get involved, especially at a time when Nevada could become the first state with a female majority in its legislature.

“Women will come out to vote, they will,” said Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler, one of four women to speak on the panel Wednesday . “Women will come out to vote because it’s so close to the election. I feel like you’ll see women out voting because they feel congress is perhaps not listening to their concerns.”

More: Can Nevada elect the first female-majority statehouse? Our analysis says yes.

The event was part of HuffPost’s “Listen to America” RV tour — a two-week journey through five Western states to talk about issues affecting communities in California, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado.

It was organized by both the Reno Gazette Journal and the HuffPost and was moderated by HuffPost Washington bureau chief Amanda Terkel. The panel featured three other speakers, including: Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Majority Floor Leader of the Nevada State Assembly; Sue Wagner, former lieutenant governor of Nevada; and Anjeanette Damon, government watchdog reporter for the RGJ.

Nevada’s congressional delegation is 50 percent female and women make up majorities on the Washoe County Commission and Reno City Council. It explains why national media have recently descended on the Silver State to proclaim it the nation’s best chance to close the state legislative gender gap.

Groups that helped recruit and train female candidates credit the #MeToo movement — a social media-driven wave of support for victims who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men — for helping to spark a political interest among women.

Watch the full panel discussion here:

Struggle for power

The perception of women has changed over the past several decades. Berkbigler said women are capable — a realization that did not exist when she first began lobbying in the state of Nevada in the early 80s.

She said many people previously questioned why some women became involved in politics.

“There was this perception of, ‘What are you doing here?’” Berkbigler said. “‘You’re a woman, you’re not supposed to be here.’”

Berkbigler said women are also advancing outside politics and in fields such as engineering and medicine, she said.

For Wagner, the struggle was even more apparent when she began campaigning for the Nevada Legislature in 1974. She was 34 years old.

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