MANCHESTER - Putting pro-choice Democratic women in the White House in 2016, in Congress, in state houses and in local offices was the topic of discussion Friday at a standing-room only "Madam President" Town Hall sponsored by EMILY's List at the Puritan Conference Center.
Stephanie Schriock, president of the Washington, D.C., PAC that advocates for abortion rights and has raised more than $350 million for women candidates, said the group hopes to make history in 2016, with a woman President.
New Hampshire was the second stop on a road trip for EMILY's List that began in Ohio and now heads to Nevada, much like a Presidential primary campaign trail.
EMILY's List is an acronym for, "Early Money Is Like Yeast," meaning early donations will bring more campaign contributions later on.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the group's clear (presidential) frontrunner, but Schriock said if Clinton chooses not to run, there are other qualified candidates, such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris, attorney general of California, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Tiffany Eddy, a former Channel 9 news anchor, moderated the panel. She asked whether EMILY's list would ever back a candidate who was male and Republican.
Panelist Jennifer M. Granholm, a former governor of Michigan and now a Politico columnist, said the best person should always be elected, "but it just happens that the Democrats have them."
N.H. Gov. Maggie Hassan, introduced as the only Democratic women governor in the country, spoke briefly.
She said it was because of the state's volunteerism and citizens' engagement that New Hampshire was the first state to back a woman as a presidential nominee in the primary - Hillary Clinton, in 2008; the first state with an all-female Congressional delegation; where the second woman governor, herself, was sworn in by the first woman chief justice of the state Supreme Court, Linda Stewart Dalianis; and where a woman, Terie Norelli, is the speaker of the state House of Representatives.
Panelists spoke about the difficulties of raising a family and being in politics. Granholm said when she ran for attorney general, she had three children - ages 10 months, 7 and 8 - and a husband who backed her all the way.
He went to Yale, where he studied theology and dreamed of becoming the Pope or President, she said. Instead, she added, he became a "saint" and Michigan's First Gentleman.
"We have to raise strong women, strong girls and good men today," she said.
Society has to change so that it is OK for men to be the primary caregivers, she continued.
When Eddy asked panelists if the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate helped or hurt women, Jamal Simmons, a Democratic political analyst based in Washington, D.C., said it was a good thing. Schriock said the problem was not Palin but the Republican Party's policies.
"I think they want to send us back to the 1950s. I think they want to send me back to the kitchen," she said.
The GOP is a party that says we have a women's problem, but then attacks health-care coverage and won't consider equal pay for women, she said.
Granholm said the problem with Palin was that she wasn't prepared to be Vice President.
Schriock said it is important for women to get a seat at the table, not just in politics but also in business, where only 21 women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. She said Title IX, which led to greater equality in sports for girls and boys, was an afterthought added to legislation by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.
"Look what it has done for our society. (Mink) was at that table at the right time," she said.
As for reproductive rights, she said it was an economic issue, not a social issue, along with minimum wage, equal pay and child care.
"We are 51 percent of the population . We are the majority," Schriock said.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was supposed to participate in the panel discussion, but remained in Washington to vote on a temporary spending bill to prevent the U.S. government from shutting down.