Alison Sweetser: More women needed in government |

Alison Sweetser: More women needed in government

According to the Center for American Progress, women are almost 51 percent of the population, yet they hold a little more than 19 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives and 21 percent of the seats in the Senate.

Women in state legislatures fare slightly better at more than 24 percent. In all, women hold 25 percent of elected offices at all levels of government. It’s not enough.

Why? Studies show that women tend to be more willing to reach across the aisle in search of collaborative solutions. A glance through the recent history surrounding health care supports this. During the 2013 government shutdown — a damaging piece of GOP political theater aimed at the Affordable Care Act — Senator Susan Collins took the floor, presented a three-point plan and urged her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join her. Three did so: Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Ayotte, and Democrat Amy Klobacher.

Women’s increased presence as legislators equates to not just more bills being passed, but specifically to legislation supporting children, education and health care. During the debates over the Affordable Care Act, women legislators, such as Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, fought to include free preventative services in women’s health care coverage and succeeded, supported by GOP Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

The dearth of women in Congress, particularly moderate and progressive women, contributed to the creation of a new and devastating health care bill recently released in the Senate. Had there been parity in Congress, would Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have appointed a health care working group of all men? Probably not. Nor would the House have passed a health care bill that excludes pregnancy from mandated coverage after an insurance coverage lapse due, for instance, to job loss.

A woman would have known better.

Additionally, as women entered global politics and brought with them concern for the well-being of children and families, their emphasis on social services, particularly health care, reduced poverty. However, with the huge medicaid curtailment set forth by both the Senate’s and the House’s versions of repeal/replace, gains in financial security for the most vulnerable will evaporate. Poverty looms large for those already on the edge.

Our current representative, Doug LaMalfa, voted in favor of the House’s version of the new health care bill, the AHCA. This, despite the fact that in California’s northern counties, 31 percent of the populace depends upon Medicaid. He voted in favor of the AHCA despite an uproar over his position in at least two town halls, despite the calls, emails, letters and faxes that flooded his office from concerned and anxious constituents.

We need a woman to represent this district in Washington.

Hence, the 2018 race for Mr. LaMalfa’s seat becomes particularly important. Of the three candidates running against the incumbent, two are women: Jessica Holcombe, a business attorney from Auburn, and Marty Walters, of Quincy, a risk management officer at a large bank. Both women support universal health care; both are, by training and experience, skillful at negotiation and collaborative efforts. Either would be a fine representative for this district.

Marty Walters, working in hazardous waste clean-up, used her skills as a negotiator to achieve consensus on how best to treat and dispose of such waste, often threading a path between public concerns, cost analysis and approval by state and federal environmental regulators. Presently, her skills are used in the world of finance, helping individuals and institutions comply with the environmental, safety and health regulations pertinent to their projects. In the process, she has helped them come to agreements that protect the environment and public safety. Her skill in helping disparate interests to find common ground will be of immeasurable value in working across the aisle.

Jessica Holcombe’s early political interest led her to intern with Congresswoman Woolsey, giving her valuable insights into the political process. Now, as an attorney specializing in business law, she regularly negotiates contracts and transactions between people of divergent or opposing interests. Importantly, her ability to listen, understand, and then articulate the concerns of opponents in the business world will translate in elected office to the following valuable skill: the ability to work with those of different political beliefs, find common ground and build consensus. We do need parity in government. Let’s start with California’s District One and elect a woman.

Alison Sweetser lives in Grass Valley.

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