Is a Woman Always the “Women’s Candidate”?

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By Annie Valtierra-Sanchez

I have two daughters and want them to grow up in a world where more women and people of color hold public office. And I’m delighted that this year’s ballot in southern Oregon willinclude many opportunities to vote for women who will do a great job of representing our community.

But the key role that U.S. Senator Susan Collins played recently in discrediting a brave sexual assault survivor was just the latest reminder that not all women in politics can be counted on to stand up for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, some women in public office put the interests of their corporate funders and party loyalty first – just like many male politicians do. They may be nice people. They may say a lot of the right things. They may even have some good intentions. But then their votesdon’t represent the values that women and people of color expect.

Take Jessica Gomez, for example, the Republican running for Oregon State Senate.

According to her campaign finance reports on the Oregon Secretary of State’s website, she has already raised more than $400,000 in campaign contributions. Much of it is from the Political Action Committees, or PACs, of the largest corporations in America.

Chevron and British Petroleum. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America(the drug industry’s PAC). Farmers Insurance. Regence Blue Cross. The chemical industry PAC that represents Monsanto, Syngenta, and Dow Chemical. Associated General Contractors, the PAC representing the country’s largest nonunion construction companies. The largest retailers like Walgreens and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The Oregon Bankers PAC.

Gomez says being funded by huge corporate interests and the wealthiest Republican donors won’t affect her positions on the issues.

But the fact is – it already has.

She says she wants to improve education. But the Mail Tribune reported on October 11after interviewing her that “Gomez supports Measure 104, which would require a three- fifths super-majority in both houses of the Legislature to repeal or reduce tax breaks and tax credits or increase fees.”

Measure 104 is backed by the same corporate interests and richest Oregonians that are funding the Gomez campaign. With her help, they want to make it impossible for the legislature to require them to pay their fair share to reduce class sizes, address inequity, or implement other education improvements.

After her interview, the Mail Tribune reported that Gomez also has fallen in line with theRepublican Party’s support of Measure 106. That measure would deny comprehensive reproductive health coverage to the working poor covered by the Oregon Health Plan, including many women of color, and people with disabilities. It also would deny that coverage to any woman employed by a public agency, such as Southern Oregon University.

To predict whether Gomez will represent the values of women and people of color, it is worth remembering that the man who chose Gomez to succeed him – Alan DeBoer – was funded by the same corporate interests and also said it would not affect his votes.

On October 9, Gomez received thousands of dollars from a division of the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, which also contributed to DeBoer after he voted against legislation aimed at reducing teenage smoking in Oregon.

Despite promising to ensure “quality, affordable health care for all Oregonians,” DeBoer voted against a bill that saved health coverage for 350,000 Oregonians – after insurance companies that donated to DeBoer’s campaign (and have now donated to Gomez) were added to the big corporations to be taxed.

Although he said he was concerned about climate change, he refused to support the Clean Energy Jobs bill opposed by oil and coal companies that were his donors and are nowGomez’s. Not surprisingly, she now opposes that bill as well.

Gomez’s funding and her positions on issues stand in stark contrast to her opponent, Jeff Golden, who is taking no corporate PAC money and who opposes partisan or corporate special interest attacks like Measures 104 and 106.

Our votes this year will help determine the future for women, families, and communities of color in this state for years to come. It will be important that we all look at the policies these candidates represent, and not just the name on the ballot.

Annie Valtierra-Sanchez is a long-time resident of the Rogue Valley.

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