Wisconsin News

Democratic recall candidates target female voters

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- In the short time Democratic candidates have had to campaign for Tuesday's recall primary election, women voters have received a lot of attention.

The Democratic frontrunners have been rolling out ads aimed at swaying women voters to their side.

One of the biggest reasons is also the simplest: Women are more likely than men to vote. If there's a group that's more likely to head to the polls, it makes sense that a candidate would want that group on their side. But there's a lot more to it than that.

In one ad, Democratic challenger Kathleen Falk criticizes how Gov. Scott Walker's policies have affected women.

"What he has done has particularly offended women. Because who are the educators? Mostly women. Who are the ones that provide health care or have to go to work and worry about their families? Primarily women. Who gets paid 81 cents to the dollar at their job? Women," said Falk.

Cecilia Manrique is the head of the Political Science Department at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She also teaches a class called Women and Politics. She said the issues at stake in the recall, like education, health care and union rights, are thought to be ones near and dear to female voters.

"If women understand and feel that it's going to have a major impact on their daily lives, then they're going to exercise that right to vote," said Manrique.

So it makes sense for the Democratic challengers to try to frame Walker as an enemy of women. In fact, the phrase "War on Women" has been used by the two Democratic frontrunners -- Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.


In a recent ad, Barret said Walker's policies were "all part of this ideological war, a war against women, a war against working people, a war against Wisconsin values."

The text "Tom Barrett will end Scott Walker's War on Women" then appears on the screen.

Manrique said regardless of whether or not that's a legitimate accusation, it does its job of getting female voters' attention.

"They're really very effective snapshots, snippets, sound bites that can be used by individuals who are running for political office, partly because it captures in the three words what you think the major issues are going to be," said Manrique.

But she said any assumption that women will vote Democrat once they get to the voting booth isn't necessarily accurate.

"You really find them working as independent voters who have a mind of their own, and therefore will vote because of the issues, and not necessarily the political party or the personality of the candidates that are out there," she said.

A representative from Walker's campaign said any claims that the governor is waging a war on women are dishonest and meant to be a distraction to voters.

Manrique also pointed out if a particular candidate gets a significant proportion of female voters in Tuesday's primary, it could be used as a way to mobilize more women in June's recall primary.

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