PIERCING THE CLASS CEILING

The reality is that even Karan English will face a stiff test. She's been labeled one of the ten most vulnerable freshmen in Congress, and while EMILY's List brass wink at the congresswoman's early foibles, English's opponents won't.

The reality is that whether the ceiling is glass or concrete, Arizona women will bump their heads on it until fund raising becomes an equal-opportunity job. The ceiling will remain until the best, brightest women accept the challenge and run for the highest offices. Any wrong moves will set women back. One woman who is considering a run for public office in Arizona tells of a recent meeting with a nationally recognized political consultant. "I want you to know," he told her, "if you cry, I'm through with you."

"If a guy has a problem, it's an individual problem. If a woman has a problem, it's gender," the would-be candidate says. She has a point. When Bill Clinton gets teary-eyed, he's sensitive. When Pat Schroeder wells up, she's weak. And when Pat Schroeder is weak, all women are weak.

The cruelest irony is that women may be gaining a greater foothold in Congress because the job is losing its appeal for men. That's the contention of Scottsdale City Councilwoman Sam Campana, who has decided not to run for reelection next spring. She denies rumors that she's considering the 1996 Scottsdale mayoral race, or a run for Congress in 1994.

"Perks are gone. The fun is over. This is real hard work. There are no easy answers," Campana says. "There are campaign limitations on raising money. The way that it used to work isn't the way it works now. And men are less motivated to do that. It's kind of become women's work."
@rule:
@body:"They were nice," state Representative Polly Rosenbaum says of the men she served with in her early days at the state legislature, "but they were skeptical." Rosenbaum, 94, got into government the old-fashioned way: She was appointed to fill the seat of her husband when he died in 1949. The former government teacher has served her Globe district ever since. She knew she had been accepted when one of her colleagues, chastised for cursing in her presence, looked around and said, "Why, hell, I forget she's a woman. She thinks just like a man." Today, the legislature is filled with women--including in leadership.

Bob Grossfeld, a local media consultant who used to work at the legislature, recalls the joys of listening to Republican senators Pat Wright and Jan Brewer debate in committee. "It was like watching Lucy and Ethel," he says, hastily qualifying the observation as a compliment. He saw "an absolute honesty about them and a camaraderie between them." Is it related to gender? "I don't know," Grossfeld says, "but I've never seen two men behave that way." Today, observers say that Wright and Brewer are rivaled by their House counterparts, Lisa Graham and Susan Gerard. Both Graham and Gerard, Republicans, shirk at the labels "woman candidate" and "woman officeholder," but they recognize that as women, they bring a unique perspective to government. Graham recalls an episode in the House Judiciary Committee during the last legislative session. She and Gerard called their Republican colleague John Kaites to task for legislation he planned to sponsor called the "Drug Babies Bill." A provision of the bill would have required testing, in some instances, of the umbilical cord at the time of birth to determine if the mother was abusing drugs or alcohol, Graham says.

Graham and Gerard conferred, then jokingly suggested a "friendly amendment" mandating that all men be tested 24 hours before they have sexual intercourse--suggesting that by abusing substances, the father can also impact an unborn child. Kaites withdrew the legislation.

If their dominion is wavering in Arizona's legislative halls, there is no doubt that men still run the show when it comes to fund raising, the springboard to higher office.

Recently, efforts were made to create a fund-raising mechanism for women candidates in Arizona. Arizona WINS (Women's Initiative for National Seats) would act as a political-action committee, raising money and donating it to women candidates, says organizer Marcia Cech-Soucy.

At the first organizational meeting this fall, participants found themselves at odds about criteria. Cech-Soucy had envisioned a candidate review board, which would consider candidates individually--thus eliminating a litmus test for the abortion issue.

But Gloria Feldt, executive director of Arizona Planned Parenthood and a recognized power broker in the game of getting women elected, told those assembled that she's unwilling to support a PAC that supports pro-lifers.

And some of those assembled--including Representative Debbie McCune-Davis and secretary of state candidate Jane Hull--were peeved. "It became a discussion on right to life, right to choose," Hull, the former speaker of the Arizona House, says in disgust. "We didn't even begin to talk about the economy." Hull's not so sure that a women's PAC will work. "It's easy enough for U S West to have a PAC," she says, because the business has concrete objectives. Women, on the other hand, don't necessarily share common goals. The monetary benefits of a women's PAC may not be worth the political risks, Hull adds. "It makes the men mad."

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