Opinion: Democratic women on the upswing

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You don’t need a degree in political science to see that men far outnumber women in elected offices.

It’s true at the local level, and all the way up to the U.S. Congress.

But there’s a change in the wind.

More women have come splashing into the political pool than ever before, although …

“That’s not quite right. At least, it’s too broad,” wrote Perry Bacon Jr. for the respected and non-partisan FiveThirtyEight.com.

“There are a lot of Democratic women signing up as candidates and winning primaries, particularly for the U.S. House.

“So far this cycle, according to the Center for Women and American Politics at Rutgers University, 350 Democratic women have filed to run for the (U.S.) House, compared with 118 Republican women.

“Democratic women have won 105 House primaries, compared with just 25 by Republican women.”

Overall, Democratic women candidates have swamped their GOP counterparts in offices across the country by a 4-to-1 margin — and those numbers have stayed steady for decades.

Wait a minute, you’re saying: Idaho must be exempt from such nonsense.

Where are the Democratic women here?

Actually, of the 105 legislative seats available in Boise, 33 are filled by women — and 11 of those are Democrats, which isn’t as lopsided toward the GOP as you’d think in a deep red state like this.

Not to mention that one of those 11, Paulette Jordan, scored a huge win over heavily favored A.J. Balukoff in the Democratic primary for governor.

It’s worth noting that North Idaho, taken separately, is so overwhelmingly Republican that gender statistics are basically useless.

Back to the bigger picture: Why are there so many more Democratic women running for office?

“I can think of three reasons right away,” said Paula Neils, former Democratic chair for Kootenai County.

“Democrats treasure the values of mothers and families, to start. Then you have the fact that women candidates can get financial help from groups like Emily’s List.

“And finally, there’s Donald Trump. He’s galvanized the desire among progressives — and especially women — to show that he does not represent our country.”

MEANWHILE, longtime Republican activist Christa Hazel pondered the same question.

Hazel didn’t dispute the one-sided statistics, but guessed that perhaps Republicans were more likely to be stay-at-home moms.

“I chose that direction myself,” she said. “I’m the June Cleaver wife and mother, always getting dinner on the table and giving my time to my husband and family.”

However, that particular image — GOP women staying at home to raise their kids while Democrats flee the nest and run for office — doesn’t quite explain all the hours Hazel has spent at political meetings and fundraisers.

She is clearly invested in politics, June Cleaver image or not.

Just like Neils on the other side of the fence, though, Hazel said she would rather help other candidates get out front instead of running for office herself — at least for now.

But as for the giant disparity between women candidates in the two parties, neither Hazel nor Neils could provide a definitive answer.

Neils offered a great summary, though.

“I hope those numbers keep up,” she said. “The more Democratic women we see now, the easier it will be for the next generation to step forward.

“That’s just fine.”


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.


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