The Skinny 

Girl Power

Women could make the difference in the close contest between Congressman Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally

It's not exactly news that today's Republican Party has some problems with the ladies.

A recent survey of female voters by two GOP groups that was leaked to Politico last month showed that women think of the GOP as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion" and "stuck in the past" and that close to half the women surveyed had a negative impression of the Republican Party.

Given how GOP candidates and elected officials have handled issues important to women—from parsing whether a rape is "legitimate" to (just this week) blocking an equal-pay bill in the U.S. Senate—it's not a surprise that Republicans are dealing with a gender gap.

All of which brings us to former state lawmaker Russell Pearce, the onetime architect of SB 1070 and current radio host. Russell picked up on a particularly offensive bit of Internet chain mail recently and went off about how women who accept welfare ought to be forcibly sterilized by the government.

That had many Republicans who are seeking office this year denouncing Pearce, who was pressured into resigning his post as a vice-chair of the Arizona Republican Party earlier this week.

In Southern Arizona's Congressional District 2, Martha McSally, who is trying to unseat Democratic Congressman Ron Barber, condemned the comments via Twitter, saying that "Russell Pearce's ignorant, hateful comments are insulting to women everywhere. He needs to resign or be removed from office immediately."

Barber also condemned Pearce's "outrageous comments."

"Government needs to trust women to make their own decisions on health care without interference," Barber said. "Russell Pearce's comments are an insult to Southern Arizona women, who have the right to make decisions about their bodies without some radical politician telling them how to live their lives. Pearce's comments are an attempt to turn back the clock to a tragic time in our nation's history when sterilizing women wasn't just nasty rhetoric, it was a reality. I fought against the hideous practice of sterilizing women with developmental disabilities when I worked with them and their families. And I'll continue to fight against any affront to women's rights."

Women are a key constituency in the CD2 race. Many moderate, pro-choice female Republicans were comfortable voting for former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, especially when she ran against extremist Republicans such as Randy Graf and Jesse Kelly. Barber likely won those voters against Kelly in the 2012 special election to complete Giffords' final term, but McSally—thanks to both her gender and experience—is working to put them in play this year.

McSally's TV ad touts her career as a trailblazing fighter pilot who sued the Pentagon over a policy that required female soldiers to wear an abaya—a head-to-foot cloak—while in Saudi Arabia.

If you ask McSally where she splits from the GOP, she points to two areas where her party gets it wrong regarding women: They should be allowed in combat and they should get equal pay for equal work.

McSally falls back in line with the party when she says abortion should be illegal except when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or the life of the mother is in danger, putting her at odds with Barber, who supports the abortion rights established under Roe v. Wade and who has been critical of state laws (some of which have been blocked as unconstitutional by the federal courts) that have restricted access to abortion.

That opposition to abortion rights is one reason that Sierra Vista's Judy Gignac is supporting Barber. Gignac had been a Republican for most of her life—she was appointed to the Board of Regents by former Gov. Fife Symington—but switched to independent about five years.

"She touts her fight with the Pentagon over wearing burkas, but she doesn't support a woman's right to determine what's best for her body and for her own health," Gignac said last weekend as the Barber campaign rolled out Women for Barber.

And that isn't where it ends.

Among the 400 women who have added their names to to the list of Barber supporters: Former GOP state lawmaker Jennifer Burns, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson and Cox Communications VP Lisa Lovallo.

Lovallo said the choice in November came down to "who do we trust to speak for us, for our children, for our community and for our nation."

"Who shares your beliefs?" Lovallo asked. "Who shares your values, your hopes, your aspirations? Who cares about the things that you care about, about your family, about helping the less fortunate, about our security and safety, about our economic well being, about our right to make decisions about who we love and who we marry, about the right to choose? ... I trust Ron Barber because he has love in his heart, he knows what this community needs and he works tirelessly to address those needs."

When it comes to equality issues, there are striking differences between Barber and McSally. McSally opposes allowing gays to marry and has told the Weekly last year that she wouldn't support a federal law preventing employment discrimination against gays and lesbians, saying—wrongly, according to employment lawyers—that gays and lesbians already enjoy some kind of workplace protection. Barber supports both marriage equality and the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prevent employers from firing someone simply because they are gay or lesbian.

McSally appears uncomfortable with social issues in general. She embraced all the preferred pro-life, anti-gay policy positions on a questionnaire distributed by Christian-conservative Center for Arizona Policy in both of her 2012 runs, but now says she may not stand by those positions, saying that, at the time she filled it out, "two weeks into my political career, I didn't understand the nuances." This year, she ignored CAP's questionnaire altogether.

Asked about her opposition to legislation that would prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace on primary night, McSally said she'd prefer to talk about how she had won the party's nomination. "If this is going to be about social issues, that's another interview," she said

Poll Positions

New surveys show a close race for governor, big lead for Goddard in secretary of state contest

A new poll shows a dead heat in the race for governor.

The New York Times/CBS News/YouGov survey showed 34 percent of those surveyed supported Republican Doug Ducey, 33 percent support Fred DuVal, 15 percent liked another candidate, 9 percent were undecided, 5 percent were leaning toward DuVal and 4 percent were leaning toward Ducey.

It's the third poll in recent weeks to show a neck and neck race. Surveys by Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports have also shown a tight race.

In another survey released last week, Democrat Terry Goddard had a huge lead over Republican Michele Reagan in the Arizona Secretary of State's race.

A survey by Lake Research Partners showed Goddard supported by 47 percent of those surveyed, while just 31 percent supported Reagan.

"Goddard's lead is buttressed by three key findings: He is well-known and well-liked; his personal appeal and political advantage stretches across the state's demographic groups, and Reagan is unknown and definable," pollsters Joshua Ulibarri and Geoff Puryear said in a memo. "Goddard is well-positioned to win this race in November."

More by Jim Nintzel

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