Good Election News for Feminists in Virginia

TM photo
Terry McAuliffe

Virginia feminists faced a clear choice in statewide elections yesterday.

The Tea Party-backed Republican ticket opposed abortion—even in cases of rape and incest—along with gun-control measures and marriage equality. What was it in favor of? Restricting birth control!

On the other hand, the Democratic ticket—endorsed by the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the National Organization for Women—supported all reproductive rights, gun control and marriage equality.

And a majority of Virginia voters were in agreement.

Democratic candidates Terry McAuliffe and Dr. Ralph Northam won their races for governor and lieutenant governor, while Democrat Mark Herring leads the attorney general race by 475—but that one is so close that it triggered a recount.

Moreover, women turned the tide in these races. Said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority,

The gender gap, led by young, unmarried and minority women and the abortion and birth-control issue, was decisive in the Virginia governor’s race.

Virginia exit polls showed that McAuliffe defeated former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli with a gender gap of eight points. McAuliffe received 54 percent of women’s votes, Cuccinelli just 38 percent (the vote among men was split evenly, 46 percent for McAuliffe and 47 percent for Cuccinelli). According to the The New York Times‘ exit polls, McAuliffe won over nearly 60 percent of voters who said abortion was the top issue for them—and those voters made up 20 percent of the electorate.

Unmarried women gave McAuliffe the greatest gender-gap advantage: 42 percent. Exit polls reported that 67 percent of unmarried women favored the Democrat and only 25 percent Cuccinelli. Married women, on the other hand, voted 50 percent to 41 percent for Cuccinelli.

Said Page Gardner, President of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund,

Once again, unmarried women are a major political force in American politics that can make or break a race.

That power is not surprising when you consider that unmarried women comprise nearly half of the adult women population in the U.S.

Pro-choice advocates hope that new Virginia Gov. McAuliffe will be able to undo at least some of the damage that’s been done in recent years to reproductive rights in the state.

Photo courtesy of Miller Center via Flickr


Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms. She is the author of Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro and coeditor (with Audrey Bilger) of Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage.