By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A congressional approval poll out just last week says only ten percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

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Many Americans say they’re frustrated with the partisan divide and gridlock in Washington. That was one of the topics discussed at a conference in Minneapolis today by Women Winning – a group dedicated to electing women candidates.

Hundreds gathered to hear Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Klobuchar and Snowe may be from different political parties, but they have a lot in common. Both won their last elections by landslides, in large part because they were able to appeal to voters from opposing parties.

Both say a culture of celebrating attack politics has paralyzed Washington.

“Courage in this next year is not going to be whether you can just stand and give a speech by yourself and criticize people. Courage is ‘Are you willing to come into the middle of that ring and work together to get things done,’” Klobuchar said.

They say voters hold the key.

“The public too has to find ways to express themselves and support people who are willing to work across the political aisle, and penalize those who don’t,” Snowe said.

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Snowe, a moderate Republican who supports gay rights and is pro-choice, chose not to run for re-election in 2012 in part because her positions isolated her from other Republicans.

Her new book, “Fighting For Common Ground,” calls for civility in Washington.

“The point of my book is saying ‘It used to be different, it can be different, it doesn’t have to be this way,’” she said.

Klobuchar says women shouldn’t avoid tossing their hats in the ring just because they feel like they don’t have a grasp of every topic.

“A lot of young women get afraid to get into politics because…they think they don’t know enough. And yet you look at a lot of guys – they’ve hardly done anything in politics and they think they can be an expert on the federal tax system after looking at it for one day,” Klobuchar said.

And Snowe says women shouldn’t worry about taking positions deemed unpopular in their own parties if they feel passionate about them.

“There are times you might find yourself standing alone. But if you believe so strongly in what you are doing and what you’re fighting for – that will surpass the loneliness of taking that position,” Snowe said.

Both women say they are heartened by the growing number of women holding elective office. When Snowe was first elected to the U.S. House in 1973, she was one of 16 women, and there was only one female senator.

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There are currently 20 female senators and 78 congresswomen.

Esme Murphy