By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “Democracy only works when we all get involved,” says Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Kelda Roys in a new web ad. Not an unusual comment from a politician. The novel aspect of this political pitch came earlier in the video, when Roys’ hungry baby started fussing and she did what most mothers would do – breast-feed the child.

A similar scene occurs in an ad for Krish Vignarajah, a Democrat running for governor of Maryland, who breast-feeds her baby as she notes, “there are no women in statewide or federal office in Maryland, none. This isn’t just about representation, it’s about policy.”

These are unique political tactics for a unique political time. Analysts at the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics project more women will run for statewide and federal office this year than ever before.

And some are making their case with explicitly gender-based messages, like retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who is running for Congress in Kentucky as a Democrat. “When I was 13, my congressman told me I couldn’t fly in combat,” she says in one of her TV spots. “He said Congress thought women ought to be protected and shouldn’t serve in combat. I never got a letter back from my senator, Mitch McConnell.”

The explicit linkage of gender and politics isn’t limited to Democrats. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona says in an ad for her Senate campaign: “I’m a fighter pilot and I talk like one, that’s why I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done.”

As Politico notes, the list of examples goes on and on. Mary Barzee Flores, a candidate for Congress in the Miami area, opens her new ad by describing how “as a woman who’s worked since I was 15 years old, I’ve dealt with handsy customers, with harassment and even assault from a boss.”

Will these tactics work? At the very least, sexist male incumbents know they have a fight on their hands.

As Flores puts it: “The bullies have had their say, but if you join my campaign, they won’t get the last word.”


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