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Kunin: Live Pink or Die

(Host)If asked to characterize the recent election outcome in a single headline, former Vermont governor and commentator Madeleine Kunin might sum it up like this: Women take over the New Hampshire Congressional delegation!

(Kunin) The minute I walked into the room, cheers broke out. This was New Hampshire, the state that made history on election night by sending a totally female l delegation to Congress - two senators, two congresswomen - AND - elected the second female governor. Maggie Hassan.

This was a meeting of mostly women, called the Women's Initiative. Many had worked for female candidates, several had just been elected. A strong waft of estrogen floated through the air, rising above an intoxicating cloud of euphoria. Few had thought all the democratic women would get elected, joining Republican Senator, Kelly Ayott and Democratic Senator, Jean Shaheen. After all, this was New Hampshire, the state that swung from republican control to democratic control in 2008,and then swung back to the Republicans two years later, with breathtaking speed. And here we go again, back to the Democrats!

New Hampshire and Vermont have competed for who has the highest percentage of women in the legislature.

Two years ago, New Hampshire plunged to 22nd place. This year, they're back up there, in 4 th place and yes, Vermont is in 2 nd place, at 37 percent. In case, you're curious, Colorado is first, at 42 percent.

I confess, I'm somewhat envious of their achievement when I know that's not about to happen in Vermont anytime soon. We're one of five states that has never elected a woman to Congress. Yes, good men represent us, so good that they get re-elected without breaking a sweat.

Still, when will it be our turn?

Women captured a few more seats nationwide with 20 percent in the House and Senate, up from 17 percent last year. All fought tough races, opposed by heavily financed negative ads. Two were aided by outrageous comments abut rape made by their opponents.

One take away from 2012 is that he who attacks women - beware.

Another take away is that gender is not the obstacle it used to be the public is ready to elect female candidates if they seem more qualified than their male opponents.

What is not yet known is how much difference these newly elected women will make? Female politicians traditionally have lead the charge on women's and family issues. They are somewhat more supportive of education, health care and the environment than their male colleagues. Twenty percent is progress. But alas, there will only be 5 female governors - a mere 10 percent.

When we reach 50 percent, it will be time to party. In the meantime in the words of Maureen Dowd, New Hampshire may change its motto from Live Free or Die, to Live Pink or Die.

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont, and author of "The New Feminist Agenda, Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family," published by Chelsea Green.
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