Michigan Republicans, like many Republicans across the country, have a political problem attracting women voters. Even running a woman for U.S. Senate hasn’t helped in Michigan where candidate Terry Lynn Land recently said that women don’t want to be paid equally with men in the workplace, but would rather be given flexible hours.
But on Friday, in what may have been a tone-deaf attempt at humor, three Michigan State House Republicans attempted to prove that they “understand women” — by reading fashion magazines.
— Jake Neher (@GJNeher) June 5, 2014
The three Republicans, Roger Victory, Peter Pettalia and Ben Glardon, posed for a photo while reading — or pretending to read — Glamour Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar. Pettalia, who was quoted by Public Radio reporter Jake Neher saying, repeatedly, “Don’t say we don’t understand women,” backpedaled, claiming the photo was just an off-the-cuff gag.
“During a short break on the House floor, Republican Rep. Gail Haines, a leading advocate on women’s issues in the Legislature, gave some of us magazines to read and asked to take our photo with them,” said the Republican state rep. “A member of the media then walked up behind her and snapped another photo. As part of that lighthearted moment, I made an off-the-cuff remark that has since been taken way out of context.”
But four Democratic women who are also Michigan lawmakers responded with a photo of their own.
— MI House Democrats (@MIHouseDems) June 5, 2014
In a recent poll, Terry Lynn Land trailed her Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, Gary Peters, by a sizable margin — six percent, with 18 percent of voters in the state still undecided. Earlier in the campaign, Land ran an advertisement saying that she understood women’s issues better than Peters simply because she is a woman.
“I’m Terri Lynn Land and I approve this message because as a woman I might know a little more about women than Gary Peters,” she says in the ad, which political observers in Michigan saw as an attempt to recover from her earlier statement about women not needing to earn pay equal to men.
The Republican speaker of the Michigan state house quickly jumped in to do damage control on the ill-considered “understand women” photo.
“Regardless of who you are, you have probably made a joke you intended to be funny but that turned out not to be,” said Jase Bulger. “This issue is not reflective of the Michigan House of Representatives, the Republican Party, nor the three legislators in the picture. What they meant to be a joke wasn’t funny to some and I apologize to those who may have been offended.”
Republicans have long had a problem attracting women voters. In the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney lost the overall women’s vote by an 11-point margin.