Election 2010: The Year of the 'Mama Grizzly'

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Much has already been written leading up to the 2010 midterm elections. Stories about angry voters and formerly unheard of candidates have been common place.

But these elections are making history in a way you may not have realized. A record number of Republican women are running for office.

With GOP candidates like Carly Fiorina, Sharron Angle, former Ebay executive Meg Whitman, Nikki Haley and Christine O'Donnell, to name only a few, this year could go down as the year of the conservative woman.

"I think it's the year of the woman, period," said Nicki Kurokawa, a senior policy analyst with the Independent Women's Forum, a non-partisan group.

"This is just a reminder that women are a force, and when women run on issues and don't allow themselves to be pigeonholed as women, they can contend and they can absolutely win," Kurokawa added.

Powerful Women for Office

The female candidates of 2010 include powerful businesswomen pledging to put their business sense to work in office. California is one example, with former Ebay executive Whitman running for governor and Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, hoping to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

"I think Barbara Boxer has taken women for granted in California. In fact, she's taken all the voters in California for granted, but I think she's always just assumed that when she ran against men that she didn't have to talk to women," Fiorina said.

Fiorina added that she started her career as a full time receptionist and worked her way up, which she believes, gives her a unique view of a woman's experience and, as she says, "how it's different from a man's."

The women of 2010 aren't running from the fact that they're women - but they aren't running on it either.

Political watchers say it's the candidates' stances on the issues that matter most.

"In business, we talk about the problem for five minutes, and we go straight to the solution. That's what we need to do in government," Haley said in a recent ad for her campaign for governor in South Carolina.

"We see people talking about the economy and jobs, and that's what people want to hear about," Kurokawa said.

Sarah Palin's Influence

Many of the women candidates can trace their success to the woman who paved the way and still carries the banner: 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.

"This year will be remembered as the year of the commonsense, conservative women get things done," Palin said in an ad produced by her political action committee.

Palin calls these women "commonsense, constitutional conservative women," or more affectionately, "mama grizzlies." 

She says there's been a "mom awakening" in the last year and a half - that women are rising up like mama grizzly bears rise up because, as she says, "moms kinda know when something's wrong."

Political analysts are paying attention.

"Republican women, independent women who are open to the Republican message, I think, can be really galvanized by Sarah Palin in the midterm elections," Mark Halperin, editor-at-large and political analyst for Time Magazine, said.

"Women voters are obviously a big part of the electorate," Halperin said. "And Sarah Palin, without a lot of specifics about programs, with just thematically saying 'If you want to change the country, if you want to protect the country for your children and your grandchildren, get involved in politics.'"

Nevada's Republican candidate for Senate Sharron Angle, who hopes to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, got her start in politics that way.

"When I got involved in politics, it was because my son had failed kindergarten," Angle recalled. "We put him in for another year. He was a six-year-old drop out and I wanted to home-school him. And the government actually came between me and my child - said I couldn't do that."

The Pro-Life Movement

Palin first made the "mama grizzly" reference in May, while speaking at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., for the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that raises money and support for pro-life women candidates across the country.

"There are more pro-life credentialed women running than I've ever seen before - almost as many women running in the Republican Party as Democrats," Susan B. Anthony President Marjorie Dannenfelser said. "That's never happened, so that's good news."

Smart Girl Politics

Women voters have showed up in force at many Tea Party rallies over the last year and a half. In fact, most of the leaders in the Tea Party movement are women.

Women have been organizing at the grassroots level online, too. One group of conservative women formed the group Smart Girl Politics, which runs a comprehensive Web site and grassroots training across the country.

Their goal is to engage, educate, and empower 'Smart Girls.' The group recently gathered in the Washington, D.C., area for a national summit. Women from all over the nation attended.

Here to Stay

For the women candidates, it's not all about being a 'mama grizzly,' but making a statement that a new, authentic, conservative woman is now on the political scene and she's here to stay.

"I think being a woman and contending in what has predominantly been a man's world absolutely plays a role in this race," O'Donnell, the Republican running for Senate in Delaware, said.

"But the exciting thing is, the women who are rising up, the women who are stepping to the forefront are what I call authentic feminists," she explained.

"Women who say, 'Let's celebrate the differences between men and women. Let's empower women to serve in Congress,'" she continued. "'To be in the important areas of America, but lets do it truly feminine. Let's use our gifts to push us ahead.' And that's exciting."

As for whether women will make history in the gains they make in the House, Senate, and governors' mansions across the nation, we'll have to wait until Election Day to see.

But these ladies say they're ready.

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