Only once before in its 24-year history has the Minnesota Women’s Press endorsed a political candidate. It happened in the 1990s. And, you guessed it, the candidate was a woman.
The surprise comes in the newspaper’s latest edition, which hits Twin Cities newsstands today.
“We’re endorsing the two guys,” said co-publisher Kathy Magnuson. (You can read the endorsement here.) And the fact that Barack Obama and Joe Biden aren’t women helps drive home the endorsers’ primary point.
Candidates’ gender is a big consideration for the St. Paul-based publication, which describes itself as “by, for and about women,” Magnuson said. “But more important is where candidates stand on issues of importance for women and girls.”
That’s where the staff at the Minnesota Women’s Press draws a bold line between the Democratic candidates in this year’s presidential race and their Republican counterparts, even though that ticket’s vice-presidential candidate is a woman.
‘Advance all women’
Why now? Publishers and editors of this biweekly newspaper with 80,000 readers and a feminist worldview are hearing “a lot of talk” suggesting that women should or will automatically endorse the ticket with the woman on it, she said.
“We’re not interested in advancing just one woman by electing her to office. We want to advance all women through legislation and public policy.”
This year’s presidential election has been sidetracked by conversation about lipstick and moose hunting, Magnuson said. But she doesn’t want to talk about Sarah Palin. The newspaper’s Obama-Biden endorsement focuses on “what we want,” she said, “not what we don’t want.”
What they want
What they want is to elect candidates who will support policies that will benefit women not just now but for years to come, she said. She names these goals in particular:
• Peace in Iraq. “It’s important that lives aren’t being lost there,” she said, along with other philosophical, financial and practical arguments against continuing the conflict. “Obama has an agenda of ending that war.”
• Reproductive choice and a pledge to uphold Roe vs. Wade. “This isn’t a statement pro or con on abortion,” she said. “It’s a statement about giving women power to make choices in their own lives.”
• Economic justice. “We’re glad to see Obama’s plan to not continue tax breaks for people making over a quarter of a million dollars. We can use those dollars in so many better ways: to provide affordable health care, hire teachers, build schools and bridges. All of that impacts both women and men.”
Women’s issues defined
Bonnie Watkins, executive director of the Minnesota Women’s Consortium, credits the Women’s Press for seizing an opportunity to say, “Here’s what women’s issues are.” Twenty-six issues, later boiled down to five key points, were identified by 2,000 women from across the country — many considered part of the feminist movement — as part of the 1977 Houston National Women’s Meeting, which was funded by Congress. Along with issues Magnuson pinpointed, they include pay equity with men in the workplace, equal representation of men and women in jobs and careers, lesbian rights and protection from sexual assault and domestic abuse.
The Women’s Press’ core staff of 11 agreed on the Obama-Biden endorsement. In addition to his stand on key issues, they favor Obama for his leadership style, “a feminist style of conversation and collaboration,” she said. “What a better place we’d be in if we’d talk to each other more.”
The newspaper’s last endorsement was in 1994 for DFLer Ann Wynia, who was defeated by Republican Rod Grams in her bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
Magnuson hopes the Women’s Press someday will again endorse a woman.
“I’d love to see a woman president and vice president,” she said. The major criteria, however, will remain the same. “It needs to be a woman who’s going to work for the best interests of women.”