Say what you will about the much-buzzed-about voter we’ve heard so much about this year — The Woman. She will either be the decisive voting bloc or part of an overhyped group who don’t deliver. But this much is not debatable: The women in this commonwealth are on fire. And they are burning white-hot for Democrats up and down the ticket.
What began as an uprising of liberal women after far too many of their gender in Pennsylvania helped President Donald Trump get elected is now a monster of a movement. And with just a few weeks to go, the women are brandishing Benjamins, volunteer hours, and determination that should make Republicans shudder.
They’ve raised money. They’re campaigning. They’re calling voters at home from home. Across the state and with particular ferocity in the Philadelphia suburbs and the city itself, women are angling for the ultimate cue shot next month: ousting Trump from the White House while injecting Republican-controlled Harrisburg with a crop of progressive women aiming for seats long held in most cases by men, and Republican men at that.
How far have they come?
On Tuesday, just before President Trump issued a smarmy appeal to suburban women who appear to be ditching him in droves, Represent PA, a political action committee based in Philadelphia but working across the state, announced it had obliterated its 2018 fund-raising total and given out more than $500,000 to women running for state House and Senate seats across Pennsylvania this election cycle.
This is just one example of how fury has become rocket fuel to launch the GOP out of power.
“Was it Eleanor Roosevelt who said, ‘Women are like tea bags; you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water'?” the group’s leader, onetime corporate executive Christine Jacobs, jauntily noted in a call with me Wednesday morning.
Jacobs, whose group had previously broken its own fund-raising record in 2018 with nearly $200,000 to women running for the state legislature, calls the activism of women begun with Trump’s ascendance a force that has only grown.
President Trump may be a lot of things, but he is no dummy when it comes to knowing who hates him. In Pennsylvania, he is staring at the Mother-Of-All-Rejections-By-Women, who are poised to jilt him at the electoral altar that decides who wins the White House.
“Suburban women!” Trump shouted with his trademark goading and maskless grin. “Will you please like me? Please? Please? I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
Our recently-hospitalized-with-COVID head of state unleashed that pickup line at a rally Tuesday night in the Pennsylvania Rust Belt city of Johnstown. The economically struggling old steel town has become a juggernaut for Trumpism. Votes by women elsewhere seek to offset votes for Trump in places like Cambria County.
Jacobs, 67, had Trump’s jabby rally cry on her mind when we talked Wednesday morning about her group’s raising 2½ times more money this year for women candidates than during the midterms massacre that saw women lift Democrats to major gains in 2018 state and congressional races.
“Guess what, Donald Trump?” she said. “Suburban women aren’t going to decide they like you."
When women vaulted off the political sidelines in late 2016 and into what they and others called “the resistance” across the Philadelphia region, some cynically dismissed their marches and packed organizing meetings as passing fancy. As anger that would dissipate into the Democratic Party inertia that had left the party hollowed out, over years, at the local level in the first place.
But then they began to run for office or volunteer to help other women run. They joined neglected local Democratic committee organizations and filled long-empty party posts. Commiseration on social media became political organizing. I wrote about one such woman earlier this year, Lower Merion lawyer Jamie Perrapato, who founded Turn PA Blue. The PAC has been working to push women into the state House and Senate.
Perrapato’s group corrals volunteers to canvass or — during the pandemic — make phone calls to voters. Turn Pa Blue has collaborated with Represent PA to help flip state legislative seats in the last few years. Next month, they are looking to flip nine House seats to take the Democratic majority there. They’re also hoping to take a majority in the Senate, but that is a tougher feat numerically.
A week ago Turn PA Blue volunteers called 44,000 women voters to talk up Joe Biden and lower-rung Democratic women candidates running for state legislature, where policy on school funding and abortion can be critical in offsetting U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
“All women making the calls,” Perrapato told me of the weekly phone-banking blitz, “all women getting the calls.”
While the half million dollars spent this year by Represent PA is modest considering what campaigns are spending, the group’s fund-raising and grants have been key in helping women advance through primaries.
In 2018, the group invested $198,000 in women pursing state seats. They pulled in enough victories that women boosted their Senate representation to 12 from seven, and upped their House numbers from 42 to 51.
“Women are now in leadership positions in the Democratic caucus in both the House and Senate for the first time,” Jacobs said. “People turned around and there were so many women, you now had to do something with them.”