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2022 could be a political watershed for Massachusetts women

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2022 could be a political watershed for Massachusetts women

BOSTON (AP) — Just 20 years ago, Massachusetts voters had yet to elect a woman as governor, attorney general, U.S. senator or mayor of its largest city. This year, Democratic women won five of six statewide primary contests.

2022 is shaping up to be a watershed year for women seeking political power in Massachusetts, a state that despite its liberal reputation has lagged when it comes to electing women to top offices.

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey is heavily favored to flip the Republican-held governor’s office in November, which would make her the state’s first woman and first openly gay candidate elected chief executive. Andrea Campbell, the former Boston city councilor hoping to succeed Healey as attorney general, would be the first Black woman to hold that post.

And since candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run together in the general election, Healey is poised to make history with her running mate, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, by becoming the first two-female governor/lieutenant governor ticket elected to lead any state.

Healey said she’s more focused on issues important to voters — like housing costs and transportation — than on the groundbreaking nature of her run.

“I know it’s historic. I also know this is about the resume, though. This is about picking the people that you want in government to best serve and deliver for you and your family,” Healey said a day after her Sept. 6 primary victory.

This year, both Democrats and Republicans nominated women for the lieutenant governor post. In addition, Democrats nominated women in the attorney general, treasurer and auditor races, while Republicans nominated a woman for secretary of the commonwealth.

The nominations continue a trend that saw Michelle Wu become the first woman and first Asian American elected mayor of Boston last year.

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If Healey were to win in November, she wouldn’t be the state’s first female governor, but she would be the first woman to be elected to the post. Republican Jane Swift, then lieutenant governor, became the acting governor in 2001 when Paul Cellucci resigned to become ambassador to Canada.

Swift said having more women serving in office helps defuse the “gender question.”

“I would have loved to never answer another gender question, not because I wasn’t tremendously proud of my accomplishments, but I didn’t run for office because I was a woman,” she said. “I ran for office because I thought we needed lower taxes and a better small business climate and better education.”

“I can’t wait for the day when it’s not part of the conversation, when the women serving in office can talk about the issues that propelled them to win, not why they think differently because they have a uterus,” she added.

Massachusetts has fallen behind other states in electing women. In 2012, neighboring New Hampshire, considered far less liberal, became the first state to elect an all-female congressional delegation as well as electing a female governor.

One reason for the recent success of female candidates in Massachusetts may be the weakening of the Massachusetts Democratic Party apparatus, said Erin O’Brien, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

“In the past, single party control has made it harder for women to get elected because parties only expand their pool of candidates when they feel threatened — and Democrats have not been threatened in Massachusetts,” O’Brien said.

There are signs the party’s influence may be waning. In 2014, a relatively unknown Healey took on state Sen. Warren Tolman for attorney general. Tolman had the endorsement of the Democratic Party and a brother who was president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, but Healey easily beat him and won the general election.

Just this summer, Quentin Palfrey won the state party’s endorsement for attorney general but dropped out of the race a week before the primary and endorsed Campbell. In the race for state auditor, Chris Dempsey won the party’s endorsement but lost the primary to state Sen. Diana DiZoglio.

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“Part of the reason that women are beginning to win in Massachusetts is because the Democratic Party is starting to look outside itself,” O’Brien said. “Women can run against the preferred male and win and not pay with their careers if they lose.”

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who defeated an incumbent to become the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, said the rise of fellow Democratic women is a testament to the “courage, skill, and commitment” of each candidate.

“More women are seeing themselves in public office, recognizing the critical role their expertise and lived experience plays in policy-making, and choosing to build more inclusive, representative decision-making tables,” she said in a statement.

“When I won my first campaign for Congress, in 2018, many people referred to it as ‘Black Girl Magic,’ but I know it was ’Black Woman Work,’” she added.

The party’s bylaws prohibit it from getting involved in contested primaries other than endorsements at the state convention, according to Gus Bickford, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.

“Once a nominee is chosen by voters in the primary election we get to work to get them elected,” Bickford said in a statement. “As we prepare to elect the first female Governor and Lt. Governor team in Massachusetts history, along with other qualified women on the ballot, we are very proud of the role we play in supporting them.”

The shift began in part in 2006, when Martha Coakley became the first woman elected attorney general in Massachusetts. Another milestone came in 2012 when Elizabeth Warren defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Scott Brown to become the state’s first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

Representation by women in Massachusetts state politics stretches back to 1922, when Democrat Susan Fitzgerald and Republican Sylvia Donaldson became the first women elected to the state House of Representatives.

In 1936 Republican Sybil Holmes became the first woman elected to the Massachusetts Senate, but it took another 70 years before Therese Murray became the first woman to serve as Senate president.

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The number of women serving in the Legislature has increased in recent decades.

In 1992, there were just six women serving in the 40-member Massachusetts Senate and 31 in the 160-member Massachusetts House. Thirty years later, the number of women in the Senate has more than doubled to 13, while the number of women in the House stands at 46.

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Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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