Gender has been a recurring theme this election cycle. Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) has repeatedly challenged her opponent saying, “Man up, Harry Reid.” Sarah Palin has used the phrase. In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell (R) called her primary opponent, congressman Mike Castle, “unmanly” and said he should get his “man pants on.” Even Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul (R) told his Democratic opponent to “Man up.” And it’s not just Republicans: In Missouri, Democratic candidate Robin Carnahan used the phrase against Roy Blunt.
But in a female vs. female gubernatorial contest, one candidate is challenging another on motherhood.
The motherhood card was thrown by U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) in a debate last week as she explained what made her more qualified to be governor than her opponent, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins (D-OK).
“I think my experience is one of the things that sets me apart as a candidate for Governor. First of all, being a mother, having children, raising a family,” Fallin said.
Askins expressed her readiness for the job in an interview on MSNBC. “There have been wonderful leaders both in Oklahoma and certainly around the country that have not chosen to have children,” she continued, “and my experience…I think really equips me for the governing side of the position of governor.”
Does motherhood really qualify you to run a state? And if so, what if you biologically cannot have children? Should that disqualify you from running for political office?
Askins has tremendous qualifications serving as lieutenant governor and as a former state legislator, judge, and attorney. Fallin is equally as qualified to be governor as she currently serves as a congressman and is the former lieutenant governor, state legislator, and having worked in the private sector.
The key difference apparently, according to Fallin, is that she is married to her new husband and they have a combined six children. Askins, however, is a 57-year-old single female.
This all arises during in a cycle when the number of women candidates in the House, Senate and governors’ races have broken records. A record-tying 10 female gubernatorial candidates are their parties’ nominees. This Oklahoma race and the one in New Mexico, are only the third and fourth times there has been a woman vs. woman gubernatorial election.
No matter the outcome of this contentious “motherhood” debate, one gain for women is assured: Oklahoma will have its first female governor.