IN 1992, unprecedented numbers of women campaigned for political office - and record amounts of money were raised on their behalf. Has that trend continued into 1994? With filing deadlines passed for roughly half the states, the early signs are yes.
``We're working with three times the women this year that we did last cycle ,'' says Amy Conroy, executive director of the Women's Campaign Fund (WCF), a bipartisan national organization that provides funding for women candidates since 1974.
According to the National Women's Political Caucus:
* 32 women are considering running for the United States Senate (15 Democrats, 17 Republicans).
* 173 women have filed or are close to filing to run for the House (106 Democrats, 67 Republicans).
* 29 women are running for governor (15 Democrats, 13 Republicans, one independent).
* 124 women are considering running for statewide office (68 Democrats, 54 Republicans, two Independents).
There was a ``huge leap'' from 1990 to '92 in how much women's political action committees (PACS) contribute to women's politics, says Lucy Baruch of the Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University. ``More than 11.5 million was raised in '92 by women's PACs; in 1990, the figure was $2.5 million. The biggest difference was Emily's List, which gave $6.2 million in '92 compared to $1.5 million in '90.''
Emily's List - an acronym for ``Early Money Is Like Yeast,'' it makes the dough rise - has already raised $4 million and expects to surpass the level of funding it provided to pro-choice Democratic women candidates in '92. The WCF has contributed $660,000 to 100 women running in the '94 campaign.
The Hollywood Women's Political Committee, which supports ``progressive wo-men candidates,'' has given $300,000 to the California gubernatorial campaign of Democratic challenger Kathleen Brown and ``expects to do much more,'' says executive director Marge Tabankin. In 1992, 220 Hollywood women raised $1.5 million for ``progressive women candidates,'' as well as a few men who met 10 political criteria, including President Clinton.
The image of Anita Hill facing a wall of white men in the October 1991 Senate hearings on the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court spurred many women to enter politics in 1992. But activists stress that women had been moving toward political office long before.
``1992 was the year of the woman, but it came after 20 years of women slowly working up the political pipeline,'' says Pat Reilly of the National Women's Political Caucus. ``These women had positioned themselves to make this run.''
Activists supporting women's campaigns also note ``a new kind of women candidate'' in the '94 campaign - the successful professional who laterals into a political career. The traditional route to national political office for a women has been family ties or decades of service on county boards, city councils, and state office. Sheila McGuire (D), for example, is campaigning in Iowa's 5th Congressional District to be the first dentist in Congress. She has raised more funds than anyone ever raised in her district, Ms. Conroy says.
One disadvantage all challengers will face this year is a lower number of open seats. Twenty-two of the 24 women who came into the House in 1992 ran for open seats, which provided women ``a unique opportunity to play in a competitive field,'' Ms. Reilly says.
``We spent most of '93 recruiting candidates for '94 because we knew this would be a more difficult year at the federal level because not as many open seats [47 down from 70],'' says Lynn Shapiro, executive director of WISH (Women in the Senate and the House), the recently created Republican counterpart of Emily's List.
The mobilization of Republican organizations on behalf of women candidates marks another twist in this campaign cycle. The Republican Network to Elect Women (RENEW) was established in 1993 to ``to set up an old boys' network for Republican women.''
Last month, the group forwarded a national poll on ``image attributes'' to state Republican leaders. The poll suggests that women Republican candidates run 5 to 10 points ahead of Republican men candidates among voters in general and 15 points ahead with independent voters.