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Summer Spotlight: A Conversation Between Two "Saints"

 

FullSizeRender(1)This week, CAWP was lucky to have extern Alexandra Banash join us from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. Working with a fellow Aquinas Saint, CAWP Scholar Kelly Dittmar, Alexandra learned about CAWP’s work and helped conduct CAWP research. As the week came to an end, Kelly and Alexandra had a short conversation about some of the topics that came up throughout the week, and shared their cross-generational insights below.

KD: Why are you interested in the topic of women in politics? What made you interested in coming to CAWP this summer?

AB:I have been interested in politics itself from a very young age. We could say I have then also been interested in women in politics from a young age because of the active participation of women that I have been surrounded by my entire life. I delved into the subject of women and politics as an undergrad at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. As a junior I enrolled in an entry-level women’s studies course. I don’t think from that point on there was a time that I became detached from love of the topic. With that being said, I was interested in coming to CAWP this summer when the chair of the women’s studies department encouraged me to apply for a pilot program. In doing so I had no idea that I was coming to CAWP. Not knowing much about CAWP and not knowing I was coming to CAWP was a curse and a blessing because after my time here I don’t want to leave.

AB: Even if we had equal numbers of men and women on the ballot, do you think that their will ever be a 50/50 distribution between men and women in office?

KD:One of the biggest, and initial, hurdles to political parity is the dearth of female candidates. We know that women women run, women win as much as men in comparable races. In other words, there does not appear to be any blatant bias at the ballot box. However, women make up far less than 50% of candidates for office at all levels, lessening their chances of being on the ballot or being elected to office. There is a great deal of research into whywomen don’t run, as well as efforts by women’s political organizations to encourage, recruit, and support women candidates (CAWP’s Ready to Run is a great example!). I’m confident that if the number of women candidates rose significantly, we would see a quicker move to political parity. But that alone won’t resolve some of the underlying institutional barriers to women’s political power. That will take more significant cultural changes, like redefining and revisioning what it means to be an elected official so that masculinity and men are not assumed the norm and femininity and women assumed as “other.” Rethinking and revising our stereotypical expectations of gender, candidacy, and officeholders is the harder resolution on the road to 50/50, and is one that will both create greater opportunities for women to run and be influenced by women running and serving. I can’t venture to guess whenwe will reach gender parity in office since we’ve seen such a plateau (and some declines) in recent decades, but I do hope we get there – even if that means I am out of a job someday.

IMG_9815KD:This week, you helped analyze data related to Black women’s political representation and engaged in conversations about gender dynamics in the 2016 presidential race. You also learned a bit more about what we do at CAWP. What have you found most interesting or surprising, and why?

AB: Looking at the data overall I am shocked by the numbers that analyze the amount of women in statewide elected executive offices by state. Just 25% of statewide elected executive officials are women and only two of those are Black women. The disparity between the numbers of Black women in office and Black women in the population in some states is almost unfathomable. Looking at state legislative representation, I am alarmed by the fact that only 3.4 percent of all state legislators nationwide are Black women in 2015. I do not expect to see a large increase in 2016, which is very unfortunate. When will this change?

AB:  What do you think is the best tool for successful support as a woman when deciding to run for office whether it is on the local, state, or federal level?

KD:We know from research that women make the decision to run differently than men, and support and encouragement is even more essential for them than for men. However, it’s too simple to say that we need to just “ask women to run.” In addition to asking, or encouraging women, to consider a bid for office, we need to provide them the incentive, infrastructure, and roadmap to run successfully. Having the support of political leaders – whether elected officials, formerly elected officials, or party leaders – is often most influential to women’s calculus. If that support is not there, especially from parties (which, according to research, can act as gatekeepers to women’s political power), it’s important for women to be able to look to an alternative support infrastructure. That might include women’s political organizations, personal support networks, or community groups that will back a woman candidate from the time she makes the decision to run until Election Day. Running for office is not easy at any level and women are smart – they need to know that: (1) they can win; (2) there are people behind them; and (3) there are groups or individuals that will help them navigate political terrain successfully.

Alexandra with a photo of Florence Peshine EagletonKD:Recent research on young people’s political ambition finds a gender gap in young men and women’s interest in running for office (with women less likely to want to run). It also finds that women’s confidence in their leadership skills actually declinesin college. Based on your knowledge and experiences, what do you think might be happening? What do you think we can do about it?

AB:The decrease in confidence for women in college might be tied to the limited scope of who is in power today. The rigid two-party system constrains the expansion of opportunity for groups that are marginalized from power. Today, women are a group marginalized from power, which is correlated with the rigid gender binary in society where men have control power relations. The large gap of women to men in our legislative body affects the experiences in our everyday lives. How can we as women become so confident if we don’t have other women behind us? As Shirley Chisholm would say, “My success was exclusively due to the support of women,” adding, “No one will save us but us.”

AB:Transitioning from a small liberal arts school to a large university, can you compare and contrast the power of the students from a political stand point and how does it influence the decisions of the hierarchy of the administration of the school(s)?

KD:Even more than contrasting the power of students at small or large higher education institutions, I think it is important to emphasize the political power students have, but often do not use. Whether it be with their university administration or their member of Congress, students can mobilize to have a great deal of influence. As consumers (at a college or university) and constituents, students are affected directly by the decisions made by leaders in both realms. Like any population, students often struggle to find the time or incentive (or even information needed) to navigate the bureaucracy of government or higher education. I think the key for students across the board is to see themselves as their own best advocates and not count on others to represent their interests. Just like women need a seat at the table, students’ voices need to be heard in the most important policy debates of the day – all of which affect their presents and futures.

IMG_9824KD:There is a chance that we might elect a woman president in 2016. Do you think it will happen? Do you think it matters to have a woman in the White House? Why/why not?

AB:Yes, there is a chance, but I do not believe it will happen. Of course, I would be so ecstatic to even see a woman be the leading candidate on the Republican or Democratic ticket, but we need to see if the level of support is there and we need to see if people get out and vote. Voting is the key; if we can somehow reach out to the people that would most heavily influence and be influenced by a women being in office, I think the vote could change drastically. On that note, I do think it matters to have women in office. In looking at recent data, we have seen a common progression in the ups and downs of the economy, but there has not been any change in who is regulating the economy per se. I also think it is important to note that having women in office would also change the dynamic of the household, shifting roles and making it more of a common solution for women to be in public and private sphere.

KD: Of all of the CAWP staff you have met this week, who is your favorite and why?

AB: Of all of the CAWP staff I have met this week, I would have to say Florence Eagleton (1870-1956; pictured to the right with Alexandra) would have to be my favorite [NOTE: Eagleton is the namesake of the Eagleton institute, not a former or current member of the CAWP staff.] She once said in donating the building that houses CAWP and Eagleton that the purposes should be for, “the development of and education for responsible leadership in civic and governmental affairs and the solution of their political problems.”  We have a lot of problems. Somehow we have to fix them.

Field Notes from Scandinavia

Over the past two weeks, I traveled through two Nordic countries – Sweden and Denmark – for work and vacation. As I explored both country’s capital cities, the gendered political realities were made clear and distinct from the United States. I’ve pulled together this photo diary of my trip with some facts and observations that might be of interest to those who pay particular attention to women’s political representation at home and abroad.

The Swedish parliament, or Riksdag, nears gender parity in political representation; 43.6% of its members are women. It ranks 5th in the world for women’s parliamentary representation.

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While on the tour of parliament, our tour guide noted this fact in passing as if it were to be expected (while the Americans like me noted how far we are from that reality). In fact, she continued to say that they have work to do on representativeness of the body, noting that their LGBT membership (4%) and representation of immigrant communities are still below the national level.

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Anna Mahoney (Tulane University), Mary Nugent (Rutgers University), our Swedish Parliament Tour Guide, and me

The Swedish parliament honors their female leaders in the building, including a “women’s room” with an exhibit celebrating women’s political leadership and urging the next generation of women to follow in their footsteps. The caption below the mirror reads: “This could be you.”

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The Danish parliament, or Folketinget, boasts fewer women than Sweden, but still ranks 16th in the world for women’s parliamentary representation – 56 spots above the US; 38% of its members were women going into the parliamentary elections held last week.

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Denmark held its parliamentary elections last week while I was visiting, and the number of women’s campaign signs appeared to outnumber men’s signs. While not an indicator of candidate totals (only 36% of all799 candidates were women), the visible presence of women in all aspects of the election was striking.

womencands

Women are at the helm in 3 of 10 of Denmark’s major parties, demonstrating their political power is not only in numbers, but also in status.

womenleaders

Most obviously, Denmark entered last Thursday’s election with a female prime minister – Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the nation’s first female prime minister and head of the Social Democrats. While Thorning-Schmidt’s party fared well in the election, her bloc lost the majority and she resigned her seat as prime minister. However, as she noted on Election Night, “I was Denmark’s first female prime minister, but I won’t be the last.” Side note: Politicians are very accessible in a country of just 5.6 million. On Election Day, I ran into the prime minister at a hot dog stand in Norreport, Copenhagen.

Thorning-Schmidt

And then I saw some MPs celebrating outside parliament as the returns came in.

MPs

Denmark is also home to the television series Borgen, about the fictional first female prime minister of the country. I highly recommend the series to anyone who loves politics, and I’d argue that it is one of the best portrayals of a woman at the peak of political power. The series is now available on Netflix.

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While taking the Borgentour, I learned that many believe the series influenced parliamentary debates and may have even primed the country for electing its first female prime minister (which it did after the second season aired). Recent murmurings of an US version of Borgenmay cue questions about whether life will imitate art or art may imitate life in the case of a female head of state in our country.

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Me on the Borgen tour under the arches at Christiansborg

#WomenRun2014: Statewide Elected Executive Office Outlook

Today we focus on the outlook for women seeking statewide elected executive offices other than governor. Candidates and Nominees Lieutenant Governor Forty-two (21D, 21R) women filed to run for lieutenant governor in 24 states in 2014.[i] The record number of women filing for lieutenant governor is 46 (25D, 19R, 1ACP, 1Ind),[ii] set in 1994. This year, 24 (15D, 9R) women won their primaries, including five (1D, 4R) incumbents running for re-election. Thirteen (10D, 3R) women are running as challengers and 6 (4D, 2R) women are running for open seats. The record for women nominees for lieutenant governor is 29 (14D, 13R, 1ACP, 1Ind), also set in 1994. LGCandsandNominees LGNomineesbyPartyThree states – Connecticut, Iowa, and Ohio – have woman-versus-woman general election contests for lieutenant governor this year. Six (5D, 1R) women of color are among the 24 female candidates for lieutenant governor in 2014. Four Latinas (3D, 1R) are nominees for lieutenant governor: Annette Tadeo (D-FL); Evelyn Sanguinetti (R-IL); Lucy Flores (D-NV); and Leticia Van de Putte (D-TX).  One Black woman, Connie Stokes, is the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Georgia. New Mexico’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, Debra Haaland, is Native American. Three (2D, 1R) other women of color ran for lieutenant governor this cycle but lost their primaries. Additional Statewide Elected Executive Offices 101 (55D, 46R) women filed to run for statewide elected executive offices other than governor and lieutenant governor in 2014. Seventy-one (46D, 25R) women won their primaries, including 17 (8D, 9R) incumbents running for re-election. Twenty-one (19D, 2R) women are running as challengers and 33 (19D, 14R) women are running for open seats. Twenty (14D, 6R) women are running for secretary of state, 12 (8D, 4R) for attorney general, 11 (6D, 5R) for state auditor, 10 (9D, 1R) for state treasurer, and 7 (2D, 5R) for their states’ top education posts. SEEONomineesbyOfficeThere are nine woman-versus-woman general election contests for statewide elective executive offices this year, including four contests for secretary of state (IN, NM, NV, and SD), two contests for state auditor (AR and MA), two contests for state comptroller/controller (IL and CA), and Idaho’s race for superintendent of public instruction. Based on preliminary counts, at least 24 of the 101 women who filed for statewide elected executive posts are women of color, including at least 14 women of color who won nominations . Ten (10D) Black women, two (1D, 1R) Latinas, one (1D) Asian American woman, and one (1D) multi-racial woman are nominees.[iii] Women in Statewide Elected Executive Office 2015 Lieutenant Governors Eleven (5D, 6R) women currently serve as lieutenant governors. Three (3D) incumbents are not running again in 2014; Sheila Simon (D-IL) and Yvonne Solon (DFL-MN) chose not to seek re-election and Elizabeth Roberts (D-RI) is term-limited. Two (2R) incumbent women lieutenant governors are not up for re-election this year: Sue Ellspermann (R-IN) and Kim Guadagno (R-NJ). Cook Political Report ratings are available for races including 19 of the 24 female lieutenant governor nominees this year because they are elected on tickets with the gubernatorial nominees. Among those 19 contenders, three (1D, 2R) are in races deemed solid or likely to favor candidates of their party and six (6D) are in races deemed solid or likely to favor candidates of the opposing party. Eight female nominees (3D, 5R) are in races deemed toss-ups by Cook, and the remaining two (2D) lieutenant governor nominees are in races leaning in their favor (1D) or against them (1D). LGRatingsFive (3D, 2R) of the women nominees for lieutenant governor are running in states where the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately. In those races, predictions of electoral success are harder to make. These races include three (3D) of the six women of color nominees for lieutenant governor this year: Connie Stokes (D-GA), Lucy Flores (D-NV), and Leticia Van de Putte (D-TX). Annette Tadeo (D-FL) and Evelyn Sanguinetti (R-IL), both sharing tickets with their gubernatorial nominees, are in races deemed as toss-ups by Cook, and Debra Haaland (D-NM) faces an uphill climb with Gary King as Democratic challengers to the Republican incumbents. Since 1998, the largest number of women to serve simultaneously as lieutenant governors has been 19. The maximum number of female winners this year would be 24 if women won all toss-up and long-shot races. Due to the competitiveness of these races, it remains unclear whether we will exceed even the number of women lieutenant governors currently serving (11), let alone the most recent high (19). LGs20042014Additional Statewide Elected Executive Offices Fifty-six (29D, 27R) women currently serve in statewide elected executive offices other than governor or lieutenant governor. Twenty-one of those women are not up for re-election this year and will remain in office in 2015. Seventeen of those incumbents are nominees again this year. Since 1998, the greatest number of female statewide elected executive officials (not including governors and lieutenant governors) serving simultaneously was 70 in 2000. Because polling is not readily available in the 62 races with women candidates, we make no predictions of electoral outcomes in these races. SEEO20042014What to Watch on Election Day In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning statewide elected executive offices on Election Day, we will be watching these situations where women have the potential to make history:
  • Latinas are running for lieutenant governor this year in FL, IL, NV, and TX. Since no Latina has ever served as lieutenant governor in any state, a win by any of the four would make history.  To date, only 9 Latinas have ever held statewide elected executive offices.
  • Five Black women, all Democrats, are running for statewide elected executive offices in Georgia, each with the potential to make history as the first Black woman to hold a statewide elected executive post in that state.[iv] To date, only 10 Black women have ever held statewide elected executive offices in any state.
  • If elected in New Mexico, lieutenant governor candidate Debra Haaland (D) would be the first Native American woman elected lieutenant governor and the second Native American woman elected to a statewide elected executive office nationwide.
  • If elected in Massachusetts, Maura Healey (D) would be the first openly LGBT attorney general in the nation.
  • These statewide elected executive office candidates would be the first women in their states to hold the positions they are seeking:
    • Liz Johnson (D), GA insurance commissioner
    • Robbin Shipp (D), GA labor commissioner
    • Valerie Wilson (D), GA state school superintendent
    • Janet Stewart (D), NE attorney general
    • Holli High Woodings (D), ID secretary of state
    • Ginny Deerin (D), SC secretary of state


[i] Seven states, including six with gubernatorial elections this year, do not have lieutenant governors.
[ii] ACP is A Connecticut Party, a third party in that state that is included here because there was a governor from that party at the time.
[iii] Kamala Harris (D-CA) identifies as Black and Asian Pacific Islander. CAWP attempts to verify all candidates’ race or ethnicity, but is limited by whether or not candidates return our request for identification and whether or not public information about the candidate’s identity is available.
[iv] Doreen Carter (secretary of state), Liz Johnson (insurance commissioner), Robbin Shipp (labor commissioner), Connie Stokes (lieutenant governor), Valerie Wilson (state school superintendent)  

#WomenRun2014: Senate Outlook

Today we are focusing on the outlook for women running in U.S. Senate races this year. Neither Senate nor House races feature record numbers of women candidates or nominees this cycle, but we may see a net increase in the number of women serving in the U.S. Senate in January 2015. Much depends on how some of the most competitive Senate races of this cycle break next Tuesday. Candidates and Nominees SenateCandidates Thirty-one (15D, 16R) women filed to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014. The record number of  women filing for the Senate is 36, set in 2010 (19D, 17R) and reached again in 2012 (20D, 16R). This year, 14 (9D, 5R) women have won their primaries, and incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D) will be on the November 4th ballot in Louisiana’s same-day primary. The record for women Senate nominees was set in 2012, with 18 women (12D, 6R) making it through their party primaries. There are two woman–versus-woman Senate races this year: in Maine (Susan Collins [R] v. Shenna Bellows [D]) and West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito [R] v. Natalie Tennant [D]). SenateNomineesWinnersIt’s important to look at the types of contests in which women are running to determine their likelihood of winning. In 2014, 7 (4D, 3R) women are nominees for open U.S. Senate seats, compared to the 8 (4D, 4R) women running for open seats in 2012. As the charts below show, women have fallen short of making history as candidates, nominees, or open seat nominees in either major political party this year. This is the first election since 1992 in which more Republican women than Democratic women filed for U.S. Senate seats, but more Democratic women made it through their primaries to become Senate nominees. SenateOpenSeatNomineesSenateCandidatesbyParty SenateNomineesbyPartyWomen in the 114th Congress Twenty (16D, 4R) women currently serve in the U.S. Senate. There are no incumbent women senators stepping down this year, and four (3D, 1R) incumbent women are up for re-election. Sixteen (13D, 3R) incumbent women senators are holdovers who will  remain in office through the 114th Congress. Based on the most recent ratings, two more women are very likely to win their Senate races next Tuesday: incumbent Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is running for an open seat against another female candidate, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D-WV). Six (5D, 1R) more women candidates for the U.S. Senate are in contests rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, including incumbents Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagen (D-NC), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Two women, Michelle Nunn (D-GA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), are running competitively for open seats, and Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) is challenging incumbent Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s contentious Senate contest. Thus women are major party nominees in many of the races that will determine the partisan balance of power in the U.S. Senate, including six of the ten toss-up contests identified by Cook. SenateRatingsOnly two women of color, Connie Johnson (D-OK) and Joyce Dickerson (D-SC), are major party Senate nominees this year, and both are unlikely to win their races, leaving Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) as the only woman of color in the U.S. Senate in the 114th Congress. In 2012, a record 5 (4D, 1R) new women were elected to the U.S. Senate. We are unlikely to exceed that number of new women winning this year. What to Watch on Election Day In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning U.S. Senate seats on Election Day and closely monitoring the most competitive races with women running (see table above), we will be watching these races where women have the potential to make history:

  • Georgia: Democrat Michelle Nunn, if elected, will be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Georgia. Rebecca Latimer Felton was appointed to the U.S. Senate from Georgia in 1922, but only served for one day. Nunn, daughter of former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn (D), would also become the second daughter of a former U.S. Senator to serve in the upper chamber of Congress. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was appointed to the Senate by her father, Frank Murkowski, in 2002 to fill his vacant seat. She has since been re-elected twice to her Senate seat.
  • Iowa: Republican Joni Ernst, if elected, will be the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Iowa. Iowa is one of four states (DE, IA, MS, VT) that has never sent a woman to Congress. Ernst would also be the first female military veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.
  • Kentucky: Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, if elected, will be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky, as well as the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. Congress from that state. Grimes would also become the youngest woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, elected at 35 and turning 36 before January 2015. Former Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR), the youngest woman to serve in the U.S. Senate to date, was elected and sworn in at age 38.
  • West Virginia: Republican Shelley Moore Capito is leading Democrat Natalie Tennant in a race to become the first woman Senator from West Virginia. If elected, Capito – currently a member of the U.S. House - will be the 11th woman ever to serve in both the U.S. House and Senate.

On a less positive note, no more than one incumbent woman Senator has ever lost her re-election in any previous election year. However, three female incumbents are in races considered toss-ups this year. For the latest numbers and information about women running for office in 2014, visit CAWP’s Election Watch 2014 and check out our next post on women running for governor this year. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #WomenRun2014.

#WomenRun2014: House Outlook

We’re launching our week-long countdown to the midterm elections with the outlook for women running for the U.S. House of Representatives. While we have not seen record numbers of women candidates or nominees this cycle, we may see a record number of women serving in the U.S. House come January 2015. Candidates and Nominees HouseCands3Two hundred and forty-nine (154D, 95R) women filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. The record for women House candidates was set in 2012, with 298 (190D, 108R) women filing to run for seats in the lower chamber of Congress. This year, 158 (108D, 50R) women have won their primaries and 2 (1D, 1R) more women will be on the November 4th ballot in Louisiana’s same-day primary. The record for women House nominees was set in 2012, with 166 (118D, 48R) women making it through their party primaries.[1]

HouseNomsWinners2It’s important to look at the types of contests in which women are running to determine their likelihood of winning. In 2014, 18 (11D, 7R) women are nominees for open U.S. House seats, compared to the record high of 39 (26D, 13R) women running for open seats in 1992. As the charts below show, women have fallen short of making history as candidates, nominees, or open seat nominees in either major political party this year. However, while the number of female nominees dropped between 2012 and 2014 for Democratic women House candidates, there was a slight increase, from 48 to 50 nominees, among Republican women candidates, with the Louisiana race still pending.

HouseOpenSeatNoms2 HouseCandsParty HouseNomsPartyWomen in the 114th Congress
It is likely that we will see an increase in the total number of women serving in the U.S. House in the 114th Congress from our current class of 79 (60D, 19R) women members and 2 (2D) female delegates, but the size of that increase depends on how the most contentious races of this cycle break for women candidates. While we know that we will lose six (4D, 2R) current women members and one (1D) female delegate to retirements and bids for other offices, there are six (5D, 1R) women candidates and one (1D) female delegate very likely to become new members of the 114th Congress, based on the most recent ratings from Cook Political Report. Another 4 (1D, 3R) new women are rated as likely or leaning to win House seats this year. Finally, 4 (3D, 1R) possible new women members and 3 (3D) female incumbents are competing in contests rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report as of last week. NewHouseWomen2 Five of the eight new women most likely to win House seats, as well as delegate candidate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), are women of color. If these new women win and all Black female incumbents are re-elected, a record 18 (17D, 1R) Black women members and 2 (2D) non-voting Black women delegates will serve in the 114th Congress. VulnHouseWomen2In 2012, 19 (16D, 3R) new women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. We are very unlikely to meet or exceed that number of new women winning this year. NewHouseWomen3What to Watch on Election Day In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning U.S. House seats on Election Day and closely monitoring the most competitive races with women running (see table above), we will be watching these races where women have the potential to make history:
  • AZ-2: Republican Martha McSally, if elected, will be the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress from Arizona.
  • IA-3: Democrat Staci Appel, if elected, will be the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House from Iowa. Iowa is one of four states (DE, IA, MS, VT) that has never sent a woman to Congress.
  • NJ-12: Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman, if elected, will be the first Black woman elected to Congress from New Jersey. She will also be the first woman in New Jersey’s congressional delegation since 2003.
  • NY-21: Republican Elise Stefanik, if elected, will be the youngest woman ever sworn in to Congress at age 30. The youngest women to be sworn in to date were 31 years old.
  • UT-4: Republican Mia Love, if elected, will be the first Black Republican woman to be elected to Congress. She will also be the first Black woman, and only the fourth woman, to ever serve in Utah’s congressional delegation.
  • VA-10: Republican Barbara Comstock, if elected, will be the first woman in Virginia’s congressional delegation since 2009.
Finally, while four states with no women currently serving in the U.S. House (Iowa, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia) have the potential to add women members to their 114th congressional delegations, Pennsylvania is very likely to have no women in its congressional delegation as of January 2015. For the latest numbers and information about women running for office in 2014, visit CAWP's Election Watch 2014 and check out tomorrow's post on women running for the U.S. Senate this year. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #WomenRun2014.
[1] Three (2D, 1R) women won primaries but then dropped out in 2012, leaving 163 nominees running on Election Day.

If Gloria Steinem asked you to run…

“We need more good women to run,” feminist icon Gloria Steinem tells The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles) on last Sunday’s episode. Until that point, Alicia had all but closed the door on running for State’s Attorney of Illinois, despite other attempts to persuade her by political insiders and prominent women like Valerie Jarrett. It was Steinem, however, whose endorsement may have made the difference in Alicia’s decision to run (or not), and only time (and another episode) will tell if she takes on the challenge. Steinem_GoodWifeWatching a fictional female character grapple with the complexities involved in making the decision to run for office on prime time television is a new and important point of cultural progress. In this show, Alicia is a potential candidate not due to the death of a man (see Commander in Chief, Madame Secretary), but because she’s deemed best qualified and most favored to do the job (Yes, her husband is the governor - a worthy topic for another blog post).  Moreover, her aversion to putting her name forward is not simply due to familial responsibilities, though she references the time crunch she is under (to which Steinem responds: “Show me a woman who isn’t overwhelmed”). She considers the impact of her potential bid on her business, her career, her personal principles (repeatedly saying “I’m not a politician”), and her family. That calculus is much more in line with research on women’s paths to political office, especially the “relationally-embedded decision-making”that CAWP scholars Susan Carroll and Kira Sanbonmatsu have outlined in their book More Women Can Run (2013). After analyzing survey data from state legislators throughout the U.S., they explain, “Women’s decision making about officeholding is more likely to be influenced by the beliefs and reactions, both real and perceived, of other people and to involve considerations of how candidacy and officeholding would affect the lives of others with whom the potential candidate has close relationships” (45). Which brings us back to Steinem. Carroll and Sanbonmatsu also find that encouragement matters to women, and it matters more in their calculus to run than it does in men’s decision-making. Moreover, the most influential sources of recruitment for women to run are political ones like party leaders, elected or appointed officials, or potentially prominent political activists. In discussions about women’s political recruitment, someone inevitably throws out a number of times that a woman needs to be asked to run before she actually does it; seven, three, five, we’ve heard them all. However, the research doesn’t point to any magic number of asks needed to spark a woman’s political ambition. Instead, the research shows that who asks, what case they can make, and how much support they provide can go far in moving a woman like Alicia Florrick from the “sidelines” to the ballot.

Could women lead in the Northeast?

northeastYesterday’s primaries highlighted the success of women as gubernatorial nominees in three northeastern states: Massachusetts (Martha Coakley), New Hampshire (Maggie Hassan), and Rhode Island (Gina Raimondo). While Governor Hassan was elected two years ago, the potential election of Coakley and Raimondo in November would add two new women governors to a region where Hassan is currently the sole female at the helm. Both women also have the potential to make history; Gina Raimondo would be the first woman governor in Rhode Island and Martha Coakley would be the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts, where Jane Swift was elected lieutenant governor and became governor from 2001 to 2003 after the incumbent governor resigned (see CAWP's fact sheet on the history of women governors). If all three women are elected in November, women will serve as governors in one-third of northeastern states, and two-thirds of all northeastern states can say they have had women governors. Finally, based on election forecasts, it’s possible that nearly half of the women elected governor this year will be from the Northeast (see CAWP's Election Watch 2014).  These facts cut both ways; there is potential for a record number of women governors serving simultaneously from the region, but with 36 gubernatorial seats up this year and only nine women earning nominations, we’re unlikely to break any nationwide records for women serving as top state executives. Even more, three northeastern states have still never elected women governors (ME, NY, and PA). Primary results from yesterday’s contests in MA, NH, NY, and RI also yielded some strong numbers for women down ballot. In Massachusetts, this fall’s ballot will include female major party nominees for five of the state’s six statewide elected executive posts. In Rhode Island, three of five statewide elected executive elections will include female major party nominees. And while Governor Hassan holds and will run for re-election to the state’s only elected executive post, she will be joined on the ballot by women candidates for each congressional race (including a woman-versus-woman race in CD 2), with the potential to uphold New Hampshire’s history-making status as the only state with an all-female congressional delegation and woman governor. Connecticut, which held its primary last month, nominated women to run for four of six statewide elected executive posts, with two women competing against each other to be lieutenant governor. In New York, however, lieutenant governor nominee Kathy Hochul is the only woman in a general election bid for statewide elected executive office this year. Other northeastern states will be similarly low on women in statewide elected executive offices next year, with no women competing for posts in PA (where Allyson Schwartz and Kathleen McGinty were defeated in the primary race for governor) or ME (where governor is the only statewide elected post). Incumbent State Treasurer Beth Pearce will seek re-election to one of Vermont’s six statewide elected executive offices, and, with no female congressional candidates this year, that state will continue to be one of only four states that has never sent a woman to Congress. New Jersey, where a woman holds one of two statewide elected posts, is the only northeastern state not holding statewide executive elections this year. Recent analyses have questioned whether there are glass ceilings for women in the Northeast, especially in statehouses, and yesterday’s results do not provide any definitive proof that those ceilings have been or will be broken. However, they evidence some noteworthy progress and potential for making history this year, and a promise of more stories to tell after November 4th.

Numbers Matter: Black Women in American Politics

This week, the Center for American Women and Politics and Higher Heights released The Status of Black Women in American Politics, a report that takes a snapshot of Black women’s current political representation and participation and reflects back on the historical advancement of Black women as voters, candidates, and elected and appointed officials. This report identifies and outlines the problem of Black women’s underrepresentation and serves as a call to action for citizens, advocates, potential candidates, and those in political power. I wrote this report over multiple HHAReportCover(1)months, poring through CAWP’s databases of women candidates and elected officials and gathering new data on Black women and men in politics to provide the most comprehensive possible analysis. . Throughout these months, I – a scholar of women and politics accustomed to the significant gender disparities in political power – was continually surprised by the dearth of Black women in elected office at all levels and throughout our states and cities. I was shocked when I realized that Black women have represented fewer than 30 different congressional districts in only 13 states in all of U.S. history and disturbed that I could count the number of Black women who have ever served in statewide elected executive offices on two hands. I was even more taken aback upon noting that 77% of the Black women who have served in Congress and 9 of the 10 Black women who have been elected to statewide executive offices have entered office since 1993. While these data make evident the delay in Black women’s political advancement, this recent history of representational growth demonstrates enormous opportunities for continued progress and power. To ensure that progress, organizations like Higher Heights are working to build a stronger infrastructure of support for Black women candidates and urging Black women to harness their power at the ballot box --  not only to amplify their own political voices, but also to support (and become) the much-needed Black women officeholders. The research proves that advancing Black women’s representation is not only a matter of democratic fairness, but influences policy agendas and debates, as well as the political engagement of underrepresented constituencies. There is much more work to do to in harnessing Black women’s political power, but this report provides an important foundation upon which to foster dialogue and identify opportunities for growth. Why? Because numbers matter. Numbers validate perceptions of inequality. Numbers illuminate the sites for and extent of those disparities. Numbers demonstrate how much work we have left to do. Finally, numbers are power in making the case for change. Take a few minutes to arm yourself with the numbers that resonate most for you from our report. Then please share them with your networks to help us continue the conversation that we began Thursday on harnessing the political power of Black women. On social media, use the hashtag #BlackWomenLead.  

A Women’s Political Committee Celebrates 25 Years

The following is a guest blog is the final post in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan highlights the important work done by the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. This piece spotlights the type of work that is integral to advancing women's political power and influence, the focus of part 1 and part 2 of this series. By Susan Rose The years 2012 and 2013 were times for celebrations and political victories for the feminist movement. Ms magazine celebrated its 40th year of publication and  Jan. 22, 2013 was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established the fundamental right to abortion. On the central coast of California, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (SBWPC) celebrated its 25th anniversary and years of political victories. This PAC began in the late 1980’s, when a small group of women in Santa Barbara met for several months to discuss the lack of women in public office.  Over time, the group expanded and included a list of who’s who among female activists in the community.  (In full disclosure, the author was also a founding mother.) SBWPC asked the question, "can women have a significant impact at the local level?" Reflecting on 25 years of political activities, the answer was an unqualified yes.  Using an activist model, these feminists created a pipeline to elective office and demonstrated that change can occur on the local level. The SBWPC was born in January of 1988 with a  reception that brought out 250 women and men.  Betty Friedan was the keynote speaker. They quickly built a membership base that today includes both women and men.The time was right to organize! From the beginning, the SBWPC defined itself as a feminist organization.  Its mission states: “The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is dedicated to furthering gender equality and other feminist values through political and social action, and educational activities.  As a political action committee, we endorse the candidacies of women and men who actively support our goals and promote a feminist agenda.” During these last 25 years, the SBWPC has pursued the goal of gender equality and social change by electing women to public office. In 1988, the SBWPC endorsed the candidacies of  Dianne Owens and Gloria Ochoa, the first women to serve on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.  The smell of victory was sweet and led to more women entering the political realm to run for office. Since SBWPC’s founding, women have comprised as much as 80% of the County Board of Supervisors, served as mayors and District Attorney, and held seats in both houses of the state legislature. They also hold many positions on school boards and local commissions.  Not to mention, since 1999 Santa Barbara County has been represented by a woman in Congress. During its 25 years, the SBWPC has endorsed and contributed financial support to 95 candidates.  A total of fifty-six of those were women (59%).  Only four of the women lost. All candidates supported the feminist agenda. The SBWPC’s success is best demonstrated by its impact on public policy. Legislation and programs introduced by women elected to office in Santa Barbara has covered a broad range of issues including breast cancer, children, domestic violence, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, homelessness, human services, living wage, rape kits and reproductive rights. In its early days, the SBWPC board of directors created a set of tools that enabled them to elect feminist women to office.  These tools included: position papers, recruitment strategies, campaign skills workshops, candidate assessment teams, endorsements, state and federal PAC money, and media support. The position papers formed the basis for the organization’s feminist agenda and the criteria by which candidates received endorsements.  The  issues covered in the papers range from childcare to the ERA to immigration and reproductive rights.These tools are still in place today and guide the board in their process of endorsing candidates. Many of the first candidates to be endorsed by the PAC were founding board members, creating an early pipeline to elected office. In the current political climate, there is not only unfinished business for the feminist agenda but an imperative need to secure the gains that have been made.  To do that, more women must run for national office starting with local and statewide candidacies. Today, the SBWPC has a standing pipeline committee that focuses on recruiting women for future elections.  This committee is key to the continuing success of the organization.  Due to term limits in many local and state offices, more women need to be ready to run when vacancies occur.  As part of their function, this committee actively reaches out to prospective candidates. While other feminist organizations have declined or disbanded, the SBWPC has been able to sustain itself over 25 years because of a diverse board of women and a membership committed to addressing issues that are current and compelling. With the help of the 24 women on the board of directors, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee has created a culture where women in public office are the norm not the exception. These women have achieved political and electoral success by grass roots organizing, marching, mentoring, advocating and campaigning both through community activism and social media.  They are dedicated and committed to making a difference in the lives of women. The organizational model developed by the SBWPC has been tried and tested locally over the years and can be replicated in other communities. “All politics are local” said former speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill.  He was right.

Preparing Women to Run and Win Elected Office

The following is a guest blog re-posted from Women's eNews as the second in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan discusses  efforts to encourage and support women's candidacies nationwide. The first piece in the series chronicled the difference women have made in California. The final piece, which will be posted next week, will highlight the role that women's PACs can play in these efforts. By Susan Rose On the sidelines of all the primary campaigns going on right now we also have a less-visible but important nationwide effort focused on gender equality in political office. It is aimed at women who have not considered running for political office as well as those who have been thinking about it and need encouragement to declare. Recruitment is the key to achieving this goal. "If women run, women win," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Emerge America is the fastest-growing national political organization recruiting women to run for office. Founded in 2005, it is currently working in 14 states to recruit and train Democratic women to run for office. (Emerge California was founded earlier in 2002.) Each December, Emerge begins an intensive seven-month, 70-hour training model that to date has trained 1,275 women. Since 2002, 47 percent of its graduates have run for office or been appointed to a board or commission. This year, it has 179 women running for office. Six are running for Congress in the states of California, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada and Wisconsin. Emerge success stories include Oregon's Val Hoyle, who won a seat in the state legislature in 2009 and is now the Oregon house majority leader, and Wisconsin's JoCasta Zamarripa, who became the first Latina elected to the Wisconsin legislature in 2010 and is now the Democratic caucus vice-chair. In 2014 women have continued to lose ground in elected office across the country, finds a data analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics. The number of women running has decreased and too few are waiting in the pipeline to run when openings occur. In their 2005 book "It Takes a Candidate," Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox explain why women don't run for office as frequently as men. Their research shows that:
  • Women put families and careers first, entering politics would be a "third job;"
  • Women believe they are not qualified;
  • Women are not recruited to be candidates by their political parties.
Lawless and Fox argue that the gender gap in political ambition is derived from "traditional gender socialization." The proliferation and evolution of women's political organizations have the potential to turn this around.

New and Old Groups

Traditional women's groups have stepped up their game and new ones are appearing on the political horizon. These organizations have created a national political infrastructure to recruit, support and train women to run for office. The American Association of University Women, founded in 1881, has a program Elect Her that trains college women to run for student government on campuses with the goal of developing a future interest in political office. This academic year 50 campuses will host Elect Her trainings. The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966, established a political action committee in 1977 to endorse feminist candidates in federal elections. With hundreds of state and local chapters throughout the United States, NOW's PAC currently supports feminist candidates at all political levels. The NOW Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the national organization, has a voter mobilization effort to "raise awareness of the importance of women's participation in the political process." The Center for American Women and Politics, founded in 1971 and the preeminent academic institution conducting research on issues affecting women running for and holding office, has a variety of booster initiatives. New Leadership, a six-day summer program, "educates college women about the political process and teaches them to become effective leaders." Ready to Run is a nonpartisan program that encourages women to run for office, apply for appointments and work on campaigns. Currently, Ready to Run has programs in 14 states. It has been particularly successful in training and electing women of color. As of 2012, the state legislature of New Jersey has 15 women of color, five of whom participated in the Ready to Run training.

Oldest Bipartisan Organization

The National Women's Political Caucus, founded in 1971, is the oldest bipartisan national organization dedicated to increasing women's involvement in political and public life. They recruit and train pro-choice candidates for all levels of government. This includes endorsements, financing and training. The Women's Campaign Fund, founded in 1974, is bipartisan and dedicated to increasing women in public office who support reproductive rights. Through their PAC and She Should Run programs, the fund provides early financial support to endorsed candidates from school boards to Congress and conducts research to help women gain office. Through its Game Changers program it is announcing new batches of candidates for this year on a rolling basis, with six new names released earlier this week. Emily's List (Early Money is Like Yeast) supports pro-choice Democratic female congressional candidates with early funding and training. Since its founding in 1985, the group has raised over $385 million. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, its donors contributed an historic $52 million for candidates. Emily's List has helped elect 10 female governors, 102 to the House of Representatives (25 from California) and 19 women to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, the roster of endorsed women includes such well-known names as Barbara Boxer, Carol Moseley Braun, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren. In 2013, Emily's List began placing more staff representatives in local communities to scout for prospective candidates. Emily's List Southern California Regional Director Heidi Lee points out that "by collaborating with local organizations we foster a greater environment for women to run." The Feminist Majority Foundation, founded in 1987, engages in policy development, educational conferences and grass roots organizing. It is affiliated with hundreds of student groups nationwide and has created feminist chapters on college campuses "to foster activism on campuses and to provide tools for leadership development." The Republican Majority for Choice, previously known as the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, joined with Wish List (Women in the Senate and House) in 2010 to recruit, train and support Republican pro-choice female candidates at all levels of government. The group is considered the Republican version of Emily's List.

California Groups

Some efforts in my home state, California, must also get special mention. Close the gap Ca was established in 2013 and aims to recruit women for the California state legislature in 2014 and 2016. It identifies candidates and then recruits and connects them to resources needed to run and win elections. By filing time in California (Feb. 12), 76 women had submitted their papers. This stops the "slide" that began in 2012, but is a long way from the high of 97 women who ran in 2010. Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, HOPE, founded in 1989, works to advance Latinas through education, advocacy and youth leadership training. Through its PAC, the group endorses and contributes to Latina candidates at all levels who "work toward creating public policies that empower Latinas, their families and their communities." California Women Lead was founded 40 years ago as an association for elected and appointed women. It provides leadership and campaign trainings throughout California with a focus on women interested in state and local boards and commissions. "Appointments are an opportunity for women who are trying to balance work and family and to build a resume while preparing to run," says the group's executive director, Rachel Michelin. To achieve gender equality in public office, we need to work harder to recruit more women to run now and to build a pipeline of women who will be future candidates. Gloria Steinem said it best in the spring edition of Ms. Magazine: "People often ask me if I am passing the torch. I explain that I am keeping my torch, and I'm using it to light the torches of others. Because only if each of us has a torch will there be enough light." For more examples of organizations working to support and train women candidates, see CAWP's Political Resource Map.

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