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Women poised to change politics, policy of next legislative session

Rep. Jenifer Loon
State Rep. Jenifer Loon

A new coalition of legislators moves into the Capitol next year with the potential to change the dynamics of the 2013 session. They are female, suburban and willing to buck the dogma of their colleagues on the left and the right.

“I’m hoping to refocus on fiscal issues, especially for women,” said Republican Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie, the House assistant minority leader. “I personally feel some of the emphasis on social issues clouded or drowned out our fiscal focus.”

“We as women have an eye toward understanding what’s important,” said Terri Bonoff, who returns as the DFL state senator representing Minnetonka. “We need to be fiscally prudent to structure ourselves for a 21st century environment.”

The political action committee Voices of Conservative Women was ahead of the curve when it formed in 2009 to endorse and work for women candidates strictly on the pocketbook issues of taxes, jobs and business growth. In 2012, despite spending only $36,000, Voices and its independent expenditure operation, Women Pac, helped elect 21 of its 30 endorsed candidates.

“I don’t think anywhere in the country is there a women’s organization that has sustained two-thirds win rate, left or right,” according to Jennifer DeJournett, president of Voices. “It’s a testament of the strong candidates.” 

DeJournett herself was a successful candidate, winning a seat on the Three Rivers Park Board. Challenged in a primary, she’s a believer that primaries develop a candidate with broader appeal. “When you’re forced to compete in primary, you hear the temperament of the electorate,” she said. “You’re forced to go out of your box.”

GOP candidates

This election cycle, Voices worked only on behalf of Republican women candidates, who must ask for endorsement. DeJournett says she hopes to expand the membership of the Voices board and that the past election victories will result in DFL and independent candidates asking for support.  

Jennifer DeJournett
Courtesy of Jennifer DeJournett
Jennifer DeJournett

“We have no litmus test on social issues,” she stresses. “If someone asks for our support, we would give them the full respect and review.”

In return, in 2012, the candidate received a personal and customized form of voter outreach, unusual for PACs and independent expenditures that rely on template, “insert candidate’s name here” messages. The basics of the Voices strategy are reaching out to the women voters, calling for a specific woman in the household, and following up with a hand-written postcard. And no negative messages, says DeJournett.  “Women don’t want to hear other candidates being torn down.”

Both Bonoff and Loon welcome an expansion of a group like Voices of Conservative Women. “I think that’s up to the leadership, but they are unique by focusing on women candidates who are united around fiscal and economic issues,” said Loon. “I would certainly hope they would look at a broad spectrum.”

Bonoff says she knows the Voices brand is successful. “I have won and run on that platform,” she said. “I think it’s fiscally smart; the labels liberal and conservative are outdated.

Loon says the Voices’ message, like her message and the message of DFL women who ran as fiscal conservatives, appeals to a diversity of voters.  “A lot of pundits say Republicans have a problem with women, especially suburban women,” she said.  “I’m one of them. I think I can speak to women and to folks and find some commonality.”

Commonality helped Loon and Bonoff last session when they worked on legislation to help low-income parents with child-caring skills. Bonoff mentions Loon along with Republican Sen. Julie Rosen and Michelle Benson as colleagues with whom she has worked across the aisle on issues like the stadium and government reform.

Budget fix

Finding common ground on the next state budget will be trickier. Bonoff, for example, endorses tax reform but is opposed to raising income taxes. She wants health-care spending to fund outcomes, not procedures. She’ll look at expanding the tax base, but “I’m not for taxing business-to-business services.” More liberal members of her caucus, now in the majority, will prod her to move to the left.

Sen. Terri Bonoff
State Sen. Terri Bonoff

Loon talks of providing “better value for the taxpayer,” not making government smaller. She says she ran for office to promote a strong jobs climate as the starting point for policy decisions. She said legislators must ask, “are you able to find a good job, do you have good schools, can you have the life you want to have in Minnesota?”

Despite the Republican’s minority status, Loon and others like her will hear from legislators with a more stringent take on budget issues.

But Loon, Bonoff, and the other women winners from the suburbs will not be ignored. They represent a coveted group of voters —  moderate women who were key to winning elections this year.  If, as center-left and center-right legislators, they forge partnerships on the state budget, education, jobs and health care, they will emerge as a distinctive and powerful political bloc.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/28/2012 - 11:24 am.

    A little doshonesty is still floating around

    To begin with, this is NOT a “women’s” PAC, it’s a conservative woman’s pack that did not endorse a single Democrat, it’s misleading to suggest that this group includes Teri Bonoff, which I think the article does. I guess there aren’t any liberal woman wroth talking about. Second, the moderate claim of this group is quite suspect, if you look at the actual list of endorsed candidates you see a number of Tea Party extremists like Cindy Pugh and Mary Fransen. Fransen is the one you will recall who compared welfare recipients to wild animals, and Pugh promises a laser focus on local issues characterized by monitoring Muslim activity at the UN and making sure Congress isn’t surrendering our autonomy in any treaties.

    While it is true that this group may be putting social issues on the back burner to some extent, it would be serious mistake to assume that if they got into power they wouldn’t revert to form. Furthermore, while a focus on budget issues could be encouraging, if they stick to magic plans, magic tax cuts, magic markets, magic private sectors, and magic government that doesn’t cost anything but delivers all the services you want, they will unable to participate in any meaningful way. Time will tell if a “better value for the taxpayer” is just a new euphemism for “fiscal responsibility” Republican code talk. I’m not encouraged because NO ONE ever wanted fiscal irresponsibility nor are there any champions for bad or worse value for taxpayers. This looks to me like just another way saying your going to find “efficiency” in government, and that ignores the fact that compared to the private sector the government is already far more efficient than most people realize, and a lot of the inefficiencies recently introduced came under the guise of private sector innovation.

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 11/28/2012 - 11:31 am.

    Understatement of the Year Award goes to:

    Republican Rep. Jenifer Loon:

    “I personally feel some of the emphasis on social issues clouded or drowned out our fiscal focus.”

  3. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 11/28/2012 - 12:00 pm.

    Election results

    Can someone let Ms Brucato know that the Republicans lost control of the legislature in the last election? It is therefore unlikely that conservative Republican women will be in a strong position to change politics or policy in the next session no matter how they are poised.

  4. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/28/2012 - 01:42 pm.

    I don’t think so…

    “But Loon, Bonoff, and the other women winners from the suburbs will not be ignored. They represent a coveted group of voters — moderate women who were key to winning elections this year.”

    Cindy Pugh?

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/28/2012 - 02:19 pm.


    These electoral victories probably owe more to the Republican nature of districts than to any endorsement process. I hope I’m not being too negative but I just don’t trust these people. We’ll see how Fransen comes out in the recount.

  6. Submitted by John Rollings on 11/28/2012 - 02:48 pm.


    The flat earth party’s PR person strikes again. Just another “puff piece” trying to rebuild a flat earth party that offended most reasonable people by denying science, attempted to disenfranchise voters and divide us as a nation while giving as much as possible homage (read money) to the mega rich as possible. Brucato should be paid by the flat earth party for writing such stuff…oh, I forgot…they’re broke.

  7. Submitted by Turo Phile on 11/28/2012 - 03:54 pm.

    Wow – no mention of Women Winning??

    I’m at a loss at how Ms. Brucato could write an article about the role that women will play at the legislature and elsewhere, and not mention Women Winning, an organization that had 60 of its endorsed candidates win this fall, including Teri Bonoff and Melissa Franzen who won one of the most hotly contested suburban seats. Seriously.

    • Submitted by Cyndy Brucato on 11/29/2012 - 08:48 am.

      No mention of Women Winning

      Women Winning is a group that endorses and works on behalf of pro-choice women candidates, which it makes clear on its website.  I have referenced Voices of Conservative Women in this report and others as the only Minnesota group for women candidates that does not use social issues as an endorsement requirement.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/29/2012 - 12:49 pm.

        Fiscal conservative is a charade, Cyndy

        Bohoff endorsed by Women Winning.

        And she also, according to your article, is a fiscal conservative.

        Why wasn’t she endorsed?

        • Submitted by Jennifer DeJournett on 11/29/2012 - 08:37 pm.

          Endorsement Information

          As Ms. Brucato pointed out in the article. VOICES of Conservative Women State PAC only endorses candidates that request our endorsement. We have an extensive application process.

          Senator Bonoff did not request our endorsement. Therefore, based on our rules we did not endorse her in 2012. That rule has been in place since our inception in 2009 and is never broken.

          Our application process is online and the application is on our website. We vet every race for a variety of factors. Our win rate has remained strong because of our intensive review process.

          We appreciate Senator Bonoff and Representative Loon’s kind remarks about our organization. We have positive interactions with women on both sides of the aisle.

          As Ms. Brucato correctly pointed out, we are the ONLY organization that vets purely on economic issues (pocket book). We do not vet, comment or advocate on social issues. That has been true since our inception in late 2009. There are other org.hat have that focus.

          Our organization focuses on the commonsense pocketbook focused woman.

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 11/30/2012 - 09:41 am.

            Ms DeJournette

            I am very happy that your organization encourages women to participate more fully in the political process by running for elective office.

            It is wonderful that you, yourself, have done this recently.

            Nevertheless, I believe that your organization could fairly be described as “conservative” and Republican. One need only look at your endorsees to discern this.

            To claim that endorsements are made only on pocket book issues is disingenuous.

            But good luck in the future. Keep up your good work in getting more women elected to public office.

            As the old Harry Belafonte song goes: “The Woman is Smarter than the Man.”

  8. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/28/2012 - 05:26 pm.

    Rudderless Ship?

    Won’t these women be like a rudderless ship without Amy Koch to lead them?

    Maybe women in new positions of power don’t always equate to radical change.

  9. Submitted by Chris Farmer-Lies on 11/29/2012 - 01:35 pm.

    This was especially rich coming from a representative who supported both the anti-gay amendment and the anti-voter amendment.

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