Not your mother's election cycle

At the state level, more women are stepping up to seek office.


Katharine Mieszkowski
October 21, 2006 3:21AM (UTC)

While we've been focusing on the prospect of Nancy Pelosi becoming the first Madame speaker of the House, encouraging numbers of women candidates around the country are seeking state offices this election season.

"Female candidates for state legislative offices are at record levels, reversing a dramatic downturn in the last election cycle," reports Women's eNews. "This year, 2,430 women are running for state House and Senate seats, a 10 percent jump from 2004, when 2,220 women sought those seats." And many women are running for statewide executive offices, too, including 10 vying for governor, such as incumbent Jennifer Granholm in Michigan, who is facing a tough challenge from anti-choice Republican and Amway businessman Dick DeVos, who has spent more than $17 million of his own money so far to defeat her. In Rhode Island, Elizabeth Roberts, a pro-choice Democrat who has served three terms in the state Senate, would be the first statewide female officeholder ever if she wins the race for lieutenant governor in November.

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The increasing number of women running for state and local positions bodes well for more women taking House and Senate seats, and even the Oval Office, in the future. "Women are also more prone to seek higher office after first serving in local and state offices while men are more likely to jump into races without first climbing the lower rungs in the political ladders," writes Allison Stevens. Clare Giesen, executive director of the National Women's Political Caucus, told her: "Fewer women just jump into the fray and run for Congress or the Senate without some kind of background." Twenty of the 24 female House candidates endorsed this year by the National Women's Political Caucus have already held political office.

The conventional wisdom also holds that women are more likely to be elected during times of scandal because they're seen as, er, "incorruptible," as Women's eNews so delicately puts it. Gee, thank you Mr. Foley, Mr. Delay and Mr. Abramoff. Will this election season be one of those times when old assumptions about feminine virtues perversely work in female candidates' favor?


Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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