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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Women pols cheer, grieve Trump victory

When Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination, former Spokane County Democrats Chairwoman Sally Jackson found herself crying.

“I’m a tough old broad, honey, but I got tears in my eyes,” Jackson said of the historic moment.

With chances of a Clinton presidency looking slim Tuesday night, some women who have held political office in Spokane County struggled to adjust to the prospect of President Trump.

Others, like former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite, were pleasantly surprised.

Wilhite said she voted for Trump because she believes the Republican Party’s platform will be better for small businesses. But she acknowledged uneasiness about some of the comments he’s made about women.

“I’m sure that there have been some things that Trump has done that I would not be happy with. But I’m hoping that as president he understands the high standard we will hold him to with regard to treating women as equals,” she said.

Wilhite said a Clinton victory would have been “bittersweet.”

“It is nice that we finally nominated a woman. It’s been long overdue,” she said. While Clinton wouldn’t have been her choice, she said she empathizes with the challenges women in politics often face.

“By and large it’s more of a struggle for a woman because I swear they hold us to a higher standard,” she said, speaking in part based on her personal experience as the only woman on the Spokane Valley City Council. “We are more assertive and they call it more aggressive.”

Lois Stratton, a longtime state representative and senator for Washington’s 3rd District, has supported Clinton since the 2008 primary. The mood at her election party was glum late Tuesday as results showed Rust Belt states leaning toward Trump.

“I don’t know what happened,” Stratton said. “I’m more afraid for our country right now.”

Top on her list of concerns were Trump’s possible financial obligations to Russia and China through his network of businesses.

Stratton reflected on the hurdles women in politics have to overcome, saying they’re often held to higher standards and not taken seriously.

In her early days in the Legislature, she said it was hard to get people to listen to her, in part because she was a woman and in part because she represented Eastern Washington, which West-Siders saw as a backwater.

After leaving the Legislature, she ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Spokane. One day, she was ringing doorbells on North Ash Street when an older man told her he couldn’t vote for her because she was a woman.

“He said, ‘If you were the Virgin Mary standing on my porch asking for my vote, I would not give it to you because we’ve had two women mayors and that’s enough,’ ” she remembered him saying. “I got a kick out of it.”

Stratton said she was impressed with Clinton’s tenacity over the course of numerous investigations into her conduct.

“I cannot believe what that woman’s been subjected to and I think it’s because she’s a woman,” Stratton said.

Former Spokane City Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes, 77, also was grieving Tuesday night. A woman in the Oval Office would have been “a milestone in the life of someone my age,” she said.

“I come from a period of time where in high school home ec we were taught that our job was homemaker and to have a delightful meal on the table when our husband came home,” Holmes said.

But her sadness over Trump’s victory had less to do with that milestone slipping away.

“I’m not as distressed over the potential of not having a woman in the White House as I am distressed over the potential of having someone so unfit in the White House,” she said.

She called his comments about groping women “beyond disgusting. Childish, juvenile, insecure.”

Kate McCaslin, a former Spokane County commissioner, was among those cheering Trump’s victory. She said a Clinton presidency would have been “devastating” for the country. Both candidates were “deeply flawed” in their personalities, she said, so she supported Trump based on his policies.

But McCaslin said she would like to see a “qualified” woman like Condoleezza Rice ascend to the presidency someday. She supported Carly Fiorina in the Republican primary because she believes the country needs an outsider with experience running a business.

“As a woman who has fought her way and relied upon my merit to get me where I am today, I like to think that that type of women would present as role models” for young women and men, she said.

Faye Morris, a 92-year-old Democrat who lives in Boundary County, said she would have been happier seeing Clinton defeat Trump. But Morris, who was a Bernie Sanders delegate, didn’t vote for Clinton, saying she was too mainstream and unlikely to push for real changes.

Instead, she wrote in Sanders’ name.

“I live in a state that’s a red state. My vote never, ever in all my 90 years has counted for anything,” she said. “I would not violate my conscience while voting for Hillary.”

Like Wilhite and McCaslin, Morris said she’d be thrilled to vote for a woman for president, so long as that woman shares her values.

Had Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren run instead, “boy would I be pleased with the first woman president,” Morris said.

Wilhite hoped Clinton’s nomination might pave the way for a more diverse, and conservative, group of women to pursue the presidency.

“I’d love to see two women run against each other,” she said. “Men have been doing it for years. Give the women a chance.”