By Ben Horowitz
The Star-Ledger
December 19, 2012

MOUNTAIN LAKES — More women should run for elective office, because “we have a different way of seeing things, we have a different set of priorities,” according to former Gov. Christie Whitman.

And those women — and men — who participate in politics need to help move the dialogue away from “the extreme right and the extreme left” that dominate the two major political parties, Whitman said today. They need to line up behind candidates with a nonpartisan agenda and support such officeholders after they win, said Whitman, a moderate Republican who served as governor from 1994 to 2001.

Addressing a gathering hosted by the Mountain Lakes League of Women Voters, aimed at getting more women involved in running for office, Whitman said, “If the world were run by women, it wouldn’t be much worse than it is today. White males do not have all the answers.”

“If you give a women a choice between replacing a bridge or building a home for kids, the woman will pick the home,” she said. “No matter how far we have come in the world, we are still the primary caregivers.”

She pointed out that after the fatal shootings of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., the first to demand answers were women such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who announced she would revive a proposal to ban assault weapons. “Women are stepping up and saying ‘if not now, when’ ‘’ she said.

Whitman said she supports the rights of hunters, but believes “no one needs assault weapons except the military and police, and no one needs a magazine with 15 clips.”

Whitman, who is pro-choice, said women need to speak out when their issues are involved. Following a question from a Planned Parenthood employee, she said the group, which has become synonymous with abortion in some circles, “really needs to get he message out that it’s about women’s health.”

For example, Whitman said, in some rural areas in Missouri and Kansas, Planned Parenthood is the only place women can get mammograms, yet those states have cut off funding to the organization.

Whitman, who has been critical of the Republican Party for moving too far to the right, last year was a key organizer of a group called Americans Elect that wanted to nominate a national third party presidential ticket.

The group planned a national convention on the internet, had 450,000 delegates registered and was on the ballot in 37 states, Whitman said.

However, the group, which wanted candidates from both parties on its ticket, couldn’t come up with a “credible” candidate who could meet the threshold of 1,000 internet hits in 10 separate states, so it ultimately didn’t run anyone, she said.

Some well-known, qualified individuals were interested in running, she said, but “it required a candidate to take on their own politicalparty and it was hard for them to say they were not comfortable with their party’s nominee.” Ultimately, none took the next step to formally enter the race, she said.

“There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with our political system,” Whitman said. “The problem is us. We are not engaging the way we should. I know it’s an overused phrase, but democracy is not a spectator sport.”