Today we are focusing on the outlook for women running for governor. Despite 2014 being a “year of the governor” with 36 races across the nation, we will not surpass any records for women running and winning states’ top executive posts this year.
Candidates and Nominees
Thirty (16D, 14R) women filed to run for governor in 20 states in 2014. No women filed for candidacy in 16 of the states with gubernatorial races. The record number of women filing for governor is 34, set in 1994 (18D, 15R, 1ACP). This year, 9 (6D, 3R) women won their primaries, including the four (1D, 3R) incumbents running for re-election. The record for women gubernatorial nominees is 10, set in 1994 (6D, 3R, 1ACP) and reached again in 1998 (6D, 4R), 2002 (9D, 1R), 2006 (5D, 5R) and 2010 (5D, 5R). There are no woman-versus-woman gubernatorial contests this year.
In addition to these women candidates and nominees, Delegate Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) was successful in her primary bid to become governor of the Virgin Islands. Christensen is the only non-incumbent woman of color to make it to a general election ballot for governor this year. Two more female gubernatorial nominees in 2014 are women of color, incumbents Susana Martinez (R-NM) and Nikki Haley (R-SC). Both women were elected in 2010 as the first women of color to ever serve as governors in the United States. Six more women of color filed in gubernatorial races this cycle, but did not make it to the general election, including two women in Florida and two women in Texas.
All five of the non-incumbent female nominees for governor this year are Democrats. Three women candidates – Martha Coakley (MA), Gina Raimondo (RI), and Wendy Davis (TX) — are running for open seats. Two women candidates – Susan Wismer (SD) and Mary Burke (WI) — are running as challengers.
Women have fallen short of making history as candidates, nominees, or open seat nominees in both major political parties this year. When compared to the most recent cycles with similar numbers of gubernatorial seats up for election, more women filed as candidates for governor this year, but fewer women made it through their primaries.
Women Governors in 2015
Five (1D, 4R) women currently serve as governors. With Governor Jan Brewer leaving office in Arizona due to term limits, four (1D, 3R) incumbent women governors are running for re-election next week: Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Susana Martinez (R-NM), Mary Fallin (R-OK), and Nikki Haley (R-SC). All incumbent women are leading in their campaigns for re-election. Based on the most recent ratings, two non-incumbent nominees face uphill climbs to victory this year: Susan Wismer (D-SD) and Wendy Davis (D-TX). The Cook Political Report rates Rhode Island’s gubernatorial contest as “Lean Democrat,” giving Gina Raimondo (D) a slight edge in that contest. The remaining non-incumbent women, Martha Coakley (D-MA) and Mary Burke (D-WI), are contenders are in two of the most competitive gubernatorial races of this cycle, both rated as toss-ups by Cook.
In 2002, a record 4 (3D, 1R) new women were elected as governors. We are unlikely to exceed that number of new women winning this year. Moreover, based on these estimates, we may end up with the same number of women governors as in 2014 (5), changing only the partisan balance among women governors. The record number of women serving as governor simultaneously is nine, achieved in 2004 and 2007.
What to Watch on Election Day
In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning gubernatorial offices 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:
- Rhode Island: Democrat Gina Raimondo, if elected, will be the first woman governor of Rhode Island and the first woman to hold two different statewide elected executive offices in that state. Raimondo currently serves as the state treasurer.
- Massachusetts: Democrat Martha Coakley, if elected, will be the second woman governor of Massachusetts. However, she would be the first woman elected governor of the state. Former Lt. Governor Jane Swift (R) served as acting governor in 2001 after then-Governor Paul Cellucci’s resignation.
- Virgin Islands: Democrat Donna Christensen, if elected, will be the first Black woman governor in the United States or territories. Christensen currently serves as one of two Black female delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Wisconsin: Democrat Mary Burke, if elected, will be the first woman governor of Wisconsin.
To date, 35 women (20D, 15R) have served as governors in 26 states. In addition, one woman has served as governor in Puerto Rico. Based on current ratings, two more states (RI and WI) and one territory (VI) have the potential to break this gubernatorial glass ceiling in 2014. However, to put these numbers in context, the number of men who will serve as governors in 2015 is greater than the number of women who have ever held gubernatorial office.
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, reporting on the scary statistics on women in the 2014 elections. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #WomenRun2014.
 Of the 36 gubernatorial contests in 2014, only 8 are for open seats (AZ, AR, HI, MD, MA, NE, RI, and TX).
 Women who are third party candidates are included if their parties have recently won statewide offices. ACP refers to “A Connecticut Party.”
 Sila Calerón was elected governor of Puerto Rico in 2000 and served until 2005.
 In addition to Yinka Adeshina (R-FL), Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder (R-FL), Lisa Fritsch (R-TX), and Miriam Martinez (R-TX), Lynette “Doc” Bryant (D) filed as a candidate for governor of Arkansas and Linda Lopez (D) filed as a candidate for governor of New Mexico.
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
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]).
It’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.
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.
Only 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.
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
Two 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.
It’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.
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.
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.
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.
 Three (2D, 1R) women won primaries but then dropped out in 2012, leaving 163 nominees running on Election Day.
“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.
Watching 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.
Yesterday’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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The following is a guest blog re-posted from Women’s eNews as the first 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 the difference women have made in elected office in her home state of California. The next two pieces, which will be posted over the next two weeks, will focus on efforts to encourage and support women’s candidacies and the role that women’s PACs can play in these efforts.
By Susan Rose
California boasts two female senators.
We are the only state to advance women’s reproductive rights in the last few years.
The state is rapidly moving forward on the Affordable Health Care Act and there has been paid family leave in California since 2002, though it is underused.
But don’t be misled. Even here we have a political gender gap that is actually widening, not closing. The California state legislature has 120 members with 32 seats held by women, around 27 percent, down from 30 percent a decade ago.
Close the Gap CA was founded to counter these losses and is conducting a four-city “Stop the Slide” tour during March to coincide with Women’s History Month. Women’s rights activists and elected officials will be speaking about the “slide” in female representation and encourage women to run for office.
Close the Gap will also be recruiting progressive women to run in 2014 and 2016. Nine women will be termed out of the state legislature in 2014 and fewer women are running for office than in 2010, says Betsy Cotton, director of the initiative.
Does it really matter if women are in public office in equal numbers to men? Yes it does, just check the research that has been piling on for more than 20 years.
In 1991, The Center for Women and American Politics published a series of findings about the impact of women on state legislatures. Women were more likely than men to support feminist and liberal policy positions such as passage of the ERA and support for abortion rights. It found that women were more likely than men to have worked on “women’s right legislation,” including issues affecting children, families and health care.
Michele Swers followed in 2002 with her book on women in Congress, “The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress.” She studied the legislative process from bill initiation to the concluding vote and affirmed that women are more likely to “champion women’s issues.”
Benefiting All Constituents
Having more women in office benefits all constituents, U.C. Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers found in their 2011 study “The Jackie and Jill Robinson Effect.” Women bring 9 percent more spending to their districts from federal programs, they found. This translates to about $49 million more income for each district represented by a woman.
In their 2005 book, “It Still Takes a Candidate,” Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox argue that women have different political agendas from those of men. Women emphasize education, the environment, consumer protection, gay rights, health care and helping the poor. Men are more likely to carry bills on agriculture, business and the economy, crime, foreign policy and the military.
Elected women prioritize the social infrastructure. Having served eight years as a California county supervisor, I learned daily that women consider public health to be as much a budget priority as public safety. On the local level, supporting mental health programs and social services becomes as important as fixing streets and patrol cars.
Reviewing the work of women in the California State Legislature during a period from1993 to 2008 revealed that women make a difference for women.
Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis are from Southern California. They served 14 and 10 years
respectively in the state legislature. During their years in Sacramento, Kuehl and Solis carried a series of bills that focused on children, civil rights, domestic violence, education, employment, health care and reproductive rights.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier comes from Northern California and served 18 years in both state houses. Her successful track record of bills passed in California includes issues affecting children, consumer services, domestic violence, education, health care and reproductive rights.
Hannah-Beth Jackson represents the central coast of California. She served six years in the state Assembly and in 2012 was elected to the state Senate. Jackson’s successful legislative record includes numerous bills focused on children, consumer services, domestic violence, education, the environment, health care and reproductive rights.
Last year, the governor signed Jackson’s legislation expanding the definition of family for California’s paid Family Medical Leave Act. (California was the first state in the country to enact paid family leave.) Today, the definition of family in California for paid leave includes seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws.
‘All Is Still Not Well’
Progress for women has been made in California because of dedicated legislators such as Kuehl, Solis, Speier and Jackson.
But all is still not well for women in California. A recent meeting in Sacramento sponsored by the California Center for Research on Women and Families focused on the unmet needs of women in child care, economic empowerment, health care, poverty relief and Title IX implementation. The California Center’s executive director, Kate Karpilow, hopes to “push women’s issues to the forefront of the legislative agenda.”
In the last several cycles the state has balanced its budget on the backs of women and children. Today 1-in-4 children and 1-in-3 single mothers in California live in poverty, according to the Women’s Foundation of California.
The most recent Shriver Report, “A Woman’s Nation Pushed Back from the Brink,” found that nationally 42 million American women and 28 million children are living in poverty.
To rise out of poverty, women need job training and job programs; an increased minimum wage; equal pay for equal work; and family justice programs including child care, paid family leave, paid sick leave and flexible work schedules.
Data from the Center for American Women in Politics show that women still have a long way to go to reach gender balance in office. In the U.S. Senate there are 20 of 100 seats held by women and in the House of Representatives, only 79 of the 535 seats are held by women. The average for both houses combined is about 19 percent.
Across the United States, women hold five of the 50 governorships and about 24 percent of state legislature elected offices. This is an increase of only 2 percent in the last 10 years.
If we are to succeed as a nation, there must be equal representation of women in elected office. “When women succeed, America succeeds,” said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014. Taking political power to gain equality becomes an imperative for American women.