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Where are the Women Candidates? Is This Another Dark Year?

Friday, September 05, 2014

 

While 2014 could be the year Rhode Island elects its first female Governor, only two of the thirteen candidates running in competitive primary races for statewide executive office are women.  

“When I first ran for Secretary of State in 1986 it was such a new thing for a woman to be running for executive office, and oh did I face challenges.  Sadly, the more things change the more they stay the same.  I ran for office such a long time ago and it is still not easy for women to break in,” said former Rhode Island Secretary of State Kathleen Connell who now serves as Director of AARP Rhode Island.

Ongoing gender gap

Democrats Gina Raimondo and Nellie Gorbea will be the only two women on the ballot on September 9th.  Raimondo is running against Clay Pell and Angel Taveras for the Democratic nomination for Rhode Island Governor, while Gorbea faces Guillame de Ramel in the Democratic primary for Rhode Island Secretary of State.  

In its history, Rhode Island has never elected a female governor or U.S. Senator and has only elected one woman to the U.S. House of Representatives.Currently, two out of Rhode Island’s five statewide elected executives are female -- Treasurer Raimondo and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts.  They are among just seven women who have ever held statewide elected office in Rhode Island.

Gina Raimondo, Democratic candidate for RI Governor

Since taking office, Governor Lincoln Chafee has appointed 441 women to boards and commissions out of 1,071 total appointments – increasing statewide representation to 34 percent up from 15 percent when he took office.

“Its not just in Rhode Island, there is an ongoing nationwide gender gap in women running for office in states across the country,” said Kathy Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority.

“After 1992, we thought that we had finally broken through the glass ceiling and we thought that we would see a large number of women running and winning in statewide races for executive office, but if you look at states like Rhode Island this year, what we are seeing once again is an inordinate number of white men.  It’s like 1992 didn't happen.” said Patricia Russo, Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, referring to 1992 which was billed nationally as the Year of the Woman because of the number of women who ran in U.S. Senate races across the country and won.

No substitute for women

Female politicians and advocates agree that Rhode Island needs more women seeking and winning executive office.  

“Frankly, the time of saying ‘it’s time for a woman governor’ has long passed.   I firmly believe that Rhode Island politics would be better if there were more women in it.  It is about more than just advocating women’s issues, it’s about bringing a woman’s perspective to the issues facing the state,” said Connell.

“It is imperative that women run for office and serve since young girls need role models,” said former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet.

“This is no different than the need for ethnic and racial diversity. While male candidates, for example, may be civil rights advocates this is no substitution for the example of empowerment when a minority candidate is the leader on such issues.  Similarly, male office holders may be "feminists "(hooray) but that is no substitute for younger women seeing a woman in a position of power as a living example of accomplishment,” said Violet

State parties perpetuate “Old Boys Club"

Nellie Gorbea, Democratic candidate for RI Secretary of State

According to former female elected officials Connell and Violet, the Rhode Island Democratic Party is largely responsible for some of the obstacles facing women who wish to enter the political fray.

“There is a ‘caste system’ particularly in the Rhode Island Democratic Party. Women are not supported for higher office unless they come from the ranks and there's no man interested in the job .2014 will show whether this trend continues or not,” said Violet. 

“The Republican Party encouraged women to run largely out of desperation because of its thin ranks,” Violet added.

While we will not know until September 9th if there will be a female Democrat on the November ballot for statewide office, there will be at least one woman on the ballot for statewide office in the general election.   Catherine Taylor is running for Lt. Governor on the Republican ticket.

“The biggest obstacle has been that the Democratic Party bench in Rhode Island has been run by men, and the women who do try to break in are often political newcomers,” said Connell. 

Indeed, a number of studies have shown that state parties play a significant role in perpetuating the gender gap in statewide elected office.   

“At the state level, the parties play a very big role in encouraging candidates to run for office, and studies conducted by the Women & Politics Institute at American University an the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and have shown that the reason this gender gap exists is that women don’t get asked to run,” said Spillar.   

Encouraging more women to run, and run earlier

Catherine Taylor, Republican candidate for Lt. Governor

According to Spillar, the fact that many of the women who enter politics, do so later in life than their male counterparts places them at a disadvantage when they try to run as a newcomer against a male opponent who has the name recognition and party base support that comes with being a career politician.  

“Women are told throughout their entire lives that they should wait until they have more experience, get their careers in place, and have children.  By the time they are ready to run, they are running against men who have been running since their twenties,” said Spillar.

“The only way we are going to get more women in the pipeline is to engage them and engage them early,” said Russo.  “I believe that every time a woman runs and wins it lifts up our gender and encourages more women to run.”  EDITOR'S NOTE: Kara Russo Young is also on the ballot as a Republican

 

Related Slideshow: Experts Make Predictions on Primary Outcomes

Prev Next

Ron St. Pierre

920 WHJJ Morning Show host 

  • Democrat for Governor:  Gina Raimondo
  • Republican for Governor: Allan Fung 
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence:   Michael Solomon 
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor:   Ralph Mollis  
  • Democrat for Treasurer:   Seth Magaziner 
  • Democrat for Secretary of State:   Guillaume DeRamel
Prev Next

June S. Speakman, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Science, Roger Williams University 

  • Democrat for Governor:   To close to call, but if I have to say, I'll go with Pell, because of his well-funded and relentlessly positive ad campaign and his very strong ground game
  • Republican for Governor: Allan Fung
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence:   Jorge Elorza  
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor:   Ralph Mollis 
  • Democrat for Treasurer:   Seth Magaziner 
  • Democrat for Secretary of State:   Nellie Gorbea 
Prev Next

Michael Riley

GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™

  • Democrat for Governor:   Gina Raimondo   
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence:   Michael Solomon
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor:   Dan McKee.
  • Democrat for Treasurer:   Frank Caprio
  • Democrat for Secretary of State:   Guillaume DeRamel
Prev Next

John Loughlin

Former RI State Rep. and Host of the John Loughlin Show on 630WPRO

  • Democrat for Governor: Clay Pell 
  • Republican for Governor: Ken Block
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence:  Jorge Elorza  
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor:  Ralph Mollis 
  • Democrat  for Treasurer:  Frank Caprio   
  • Democrat for Secretary of State: Guillaume DeRamel
Prev Next

Don Roach

GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™

  • Democrat for Governor: Gina Raimondo 
  • Republican for Governor: Allan Fung 
  • Democrat For Mayor of Providence:  Jorge Elorza  
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor:  Ralph Mollis
  • Democrat for Treasurer:  Seth Magaziner  
  • Democrat for Secretary of State: Guillaume DeRamel 
Prev Next

Russell J. Moore

GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™

  • Democrat for Governor: Gina Raimondo
  • Republican for Governor: Ken Block
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence: Michael Solomon
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor: Ralph Mollis
  • Democrat for Treasurer: Frank Caprio
  • Democrat for Secretary of State: Guillaume DeRamel
Prev Next

Herbert Weiss

Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call Writer 

  • Democrat for Governor: Gina Raimondo
  • Republican for Governor: Ken Block
  • Democrat for Mayor of Providence: Michael Solomon
  • Democrat for Lt. Governor: Dan McKee
  • Democrat for Treasurer: Seth Magaziner
  • Democrat for Secretary of State: Guillaume DeRamel
Prev Next

Pam Gencarella

GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™

While we wish we had a crystal ball to predict the outcome of elections, our organization doesn't venture there.  However, we do have a statement regarding one of the candidates and his campaign.
"The announcement on his website reads “Clay Pell is looking for roots - grassroots”.  Presumably he’s looking because he has neither roots in RI nor does he have a grassroots movement to elect him without the help of special interest public unions.  In addition to the fact that Clay Pell couldn’t answer the question as to whether he had lived in RI for a calendar year, he’s pumping $3 million of his own money into his campaign, which looks more like buying the governorship than a grassroots movement.  On top of that, having the head of NEARI, one of RI’s most powerful special interest groups, acting as a campaign puppeteer and throwing the weight of its membership to support Pell, could hardly be claimed as a grassroots movement.  (It would, however, be interesting to see what a polling of the individual, hard-working, teachers on the front line would say about the political activities of their organization.)  Clay is not his grandfather, just like Chafee is not his father.  While Pell’s gubernatorial candidacy certainly looks pumped up by his resume, it is somewhat dubious to think that relatively short stints of unpaid internships are a substitute for the experience and leadership that is so desperately needed in our state."

 
 

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