This week, the Pennsylvania arm of the Clinton campaign rolled out “Pennsylvania Women for Hillary” in its latest attempt to lock in a sizable demographic to which it already strongly appeals. (According to the latest Franklin & Marshall poll, Clinton is leading Trump in Pennsylvania among white women, 57 percent to 29 percent.)
The campaign held events across the state with specials guests like Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and EMILY's List president Stephanie Schriock; there were at least 14 "Women to Women" phone banks, including one in Pittsburgh's Allentown neighborhood (see video below); and the campaign announced a new "Women's Council," featuring female public figures in Pennsylvania.
"What you have in Pa. is the power to have women voters stand up and stop Donald Trump from becoming president," Schriock told City Paper by phone. (EMILY's List, a group that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, is featuring U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, of Pennsylvania, on its website's homepage as a key candidate.) "Today we’re over on the Eastern side of the state energizing our volunteers and mak[ing] the case that Clinton and [running mate Tim] Kaine are going to make sure there’s an economy that works for everybody. Pittsburgh women have a lot at stake in this election too, and have a huge role in making sure we stop this divisive and dangerous agenda of Trump and the GOP."
The campaign says that women in Pennsylvania would benefit from a number of policies in Clinton’s economic plan, including instating a higher minimum wage, changing regulations to ensure equal pay for men and women, passing paid family leave, eliminating college tuition at public universities for families who make $125,000 or less, lowering child-care costs, providing tax relief to caregivers, and ensuring that all 4-year-olds receive quality pre-school.
While policies would of course be implemented on the federal level, the campaign invokes Pennsylvania's demographics. According to the plan, as of 2014, women working full-time in the state earned a median income of $39,905, compared to a man's median income for that year of $50,412. When combined, the plan says, that's a $19 billion yearly loss for full-time women workers. According to the campaign, Clinton's paid-family-leave policy would impact 93,000 working families with newborn children each year in the state. And eliminating college tuition would affect the 86 percent of households that bring in less than $125,000 per year; 57 percent of college students in Pennsylvania are women.
Heather Arnet, executive director of the Pittsburgh-based Women and Girls Foundation, confirms that women in Pennsylvania face economic challenges: More than 60 percent of households living in poverty in the state are run by single moms; in Pittsburgh, it's 73 percent.
"Secretary Clinton’s campaign is completely accurate in saying that while women suffer economically throughout the U.S., it is especially acute here in Pa. and Western Pa.," Arnet says. "The wage gap here has traditionally been worse than the national average, especially for women of color."
Her organization is making a huge push to get paid family leave passed on the state level.
"What’s really important is that it is refreshing to see a presidential candidate talk about things like paid family leave or reproductive health care as economic-security issues," Arnet says. "In the past, they would be framed as women's issues or social issues. It's powerful that Secretary Clinton and her campaign are discussing these issues as part of her economic policy."
Several local women have joined the campaign's new Women's Council, which has nearly 100 members from across the state, including First Lady Frances Wolf.
"For me, it’s truly about getting women into leadership," says Democratic candidate for U.S. House Erin McClelland, who's running against 12th District incumbent Keith Rothfus. "Way too many women you talk to, as soon as you talk politics they regard it as dirty. A lot of them don’t even vote for that reason. Right now they do not have a seat at the negotiating table."
As a member of the council, McClelland says she is currently organizing a panel of young women in politics to discuss "issues women really care about, poverty, education, health care, particularly young women. It’s really hard getting young women involved in politics."
McClelland is in the company of other local women on the council, including Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak, Allegheny County Democratic Party Committee chair Nancy Patton Mills and City of Pittsburgh Chief Urban Affairs Officer Valerie McDonald Roberts, among several others.
With just about 90 days until the election and a huge demographic at stake, those who want to see Clinton in office will be working hard this fall.
"[Pennsylvania] is right in the middle of the big battleground," Schriock says. "You’re going to see a lot more of us coming through."