Maine Legislative Leadership: Women need not apply

Here’s a trivia question. What do 1977 and 2013 have in common?

Yes, we will have had Democratic presidents in both years. Yes, Maine will have one independent, two Republicans and two Democrats in our statewide and federal offices in both years (Emery (R), Cohen (R), Hathaway (D), Muskie (D), Longley (I) vs. LePage (R), Collins (R), Pingree (D), Michaud (D), King (I)). Yes, The Rolling Stones were touring then as they are now.

But none of these is the correct answer.

I’ll give you a hint. The answer to my question lies in a list of names from 1977: John Martin, Jim Tierney, Rodney Quinn, Joe Soule, Jerrold Spears, David Huber, Gerry Conley, Peter Danton, Linwood Palmer and Bill Garsoe.

Still having trouble? Well, here’s the list of names for 2013 that you should compare it to: Mark Eves, Seth Berry, Jeff McCabe, Kenneth Fredette, Alex Willette, Justin Alfond, Seth Goodall, Troy Jackson, Mike Thibodeau and Roger Katz.

See any similarities between the two lists? Yes, they are both the lists of legislative leaders from their respective years. Anything else?

That’s right. 1977 was the last time the Maine State Legislature had all men in their leadership positions. The last time until 2013, that is.

I am not sure if our 35-year streak is a record around the country, but I would bet it is. And now it is over.

Since 1977 the Maine Legislature has had at least one woman in leadership in every session. From Libby Mitchell to Carol Weston, from Barbara Gill to Emily Cain, from Nancy Clark to Deb Plowman, from Hannah Pingree to Jane Amero, from Beverly Bustin to Pam Cahill, from Sharon Treat to Chellie Pingree to Bev Daggett to Beth Edmunds, we have consistently had female voices in every leadership meeting over the past 35 years.

Every Legislative Council meeting where the rules of the Legislature and the bills to be considered are determined there has been at least one female voice at the table over the past 35 years. Not any more. For the next two years, there will be ten male voices and that is it.

Every meeting between the leaders and the governor has included at least one woman over the past 35 years. Not anymore. For the next two years, there will be eleven male voices and that is it.

I am certainly not passing judgment on any of the people selected by their colleagues. I know many of them well and consider them to be outstanding servants. But if they want the Legislature to truly represent a state that is 51.1 percent female, both sides of the aisle had better make sure they find a way to bring women to the table.

Sometimes it seems like we have come so far. Other times, not so much.

Posted by Ethan Strimling