Women rise to top in Legislature, Congress
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa has been named the state Senate's next president in the Democrats' reorganization plan.
WOMEN in politics will reach major milestones when Congress and the state Legislature convene in January. For the first time, a woman will be the leader of one of the chambers -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as U.S. House speaker and Sen. Colleen W. Hanabusa (D,Wahiawa-Pupukea) as Hawaii Senate president
. Finally, legislative colleagues have come to the conclusion reached by voters long ago -- that women, too, can be strong leaders.
Neither one is the dominant woman in politics at her respective jurisdiction. Pelosi is overshadowed by Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., the frontrunner for her party's 2008 presidential nomination, and Hanabusa takes second seat to Gov. Linda Lingle, whose 2002 election made her Hawaii's first female governor.
But Pelosi and Hanabusa have accomplished something that Clinton and Lingle have not: being chosen by their colleagues as their leaders. That might have been more challenging over the years than winning elections among ordinary voters.
In this year's state legislatures, eight women were Senate presidents and six were House speakers. The National Conference of State Legislatures counted 52 women in positions of leadership in this year's sessions, including Hawaii House Republican Leader Lynn Finnegan, Senate Vice President Donna Mercado Kim and Hanabusa, the Senate Democratic leader.
Prior to her 2002 election, Lingle opined that people in Hawaii, more so than elsewhere, "are open to the idea of women in leadership. I think part of it goes back to the history of our state, the history of the monarchy. People historically have seen women as strong leaders."
Gender might have had little if anything to do with Hanabusa's rise to the top. She is known by other senators and observers to be perhaps the sharpest member of the Senate, in both intellect and decisiveness. Her unrelenting ambition tops off a perfect recipe for leadership.
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