Women Make Few Inroads to the General Assembly in Pennsylvania Politics

May 23, 2014
For Immediate Release

PITTSBURGH— When the dust settles from the 2014 Pennsylvania Primary Election, voters will find relatively few women among their choices in the general election this fall. Of the 94 Republican and Democratic women who sought their party’s nomination for state legislative offices in the primaries, 73 were successful and will move on to the general election. This number represents 22.7 percent of the total number of general assembly candidates.

Notably, neither of the two women seeking the Democratic nomination for governor—U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and former state Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty—came within striking distance of the successful nominee, businessman Tom Wolf. Wolf received a solid 58 percent of the vote in a four-way primary. With Schwartz and McGinty out of the running, Pennsylvania will extend its history of never having had a woman governor. There are also no women candidates for lieutenant governor.

Six women (R1, D5) did capture nominations for the U.S. House of Representatives. The success of these newcomers—Megan Rath (R), Linda Thompson (D), Kerith Strano-Tayler (D), Mary Ellen Balchunis (D), Alanna Hartzok (D), and Erin McClelland (D)—will determine whether or not Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation includes a woman. Schwartz is currently the only woman in the 20-member delegation (both U.S. Senators and 17 of the state’s 18 U.S. Representatives are men). Schwartz chose to seek the gubernatorial nomination rather than a sixth term in Congress.

In the state legislature, 9 of the 13 women seeking nomination for the 25 state senate seats up in 2014 were successful. Incumbents Sen. Lisa Baker (R), Sen. Lisa Boscola (D), and Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D) won, as did current state representatives now seeking a senate seat: Rep. Michele Brooks (R) and Rep. Deberah Kula (D). In the state house, 81 women put their names on the ballot for one of the 203 seats. Of these, 64 (R23, D41) were successful and will proceed to the general.  All but one of the incumbent women in the State House who sought re-election were re-nominated, and they are joined by 31 challengers.

Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University explains that, “We had hoped more women would be successful in their bids and are now concerned that this could mean Pennsylvania’s already historically-low levels of representation of women in government will be further eroded.”  Today, only 17.8 percent of the state legislature is women and there is only one woman serving as a statewide elected official and one in the congressional delegation. According the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the state ranks 38th in the nation for the percentage of women in the state legislature.

Ms. Brown states, “Research shows that, typically, when women run, they win at the same rates as men. Thus, if the state is going to increase the number of women holding public office, it still needs more women candidates.” The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) supports women considering seeking elective office with the Ready to Run™ Campaign Training For Women programs. Since 2012, the PCWP has hosted these campaign trainings in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, giving women the education, insights, and skills they need to embark on a successful campaign.

More than 250 women have participated in the Ready to Run™ program in the three years the program has been offered by the PCWP. Additionally, the program had 16 alumnae who filed to run for various elective offices in the 2014 primary election and 10 were victorious. Two Ready to Run alumnae won their nomination for a congressional seat (Erin McClelland (D) and Kerith Strano-Taylor (D)); and 8 alumnae won their races for the state legislature.

The 2014 Pennsylvania General Election is set for Tuesday, November 4.

For more information about the PCWP at Chatham University or Ready to Run™ Campaign Training for Women, please contact Dana Brown, Executive Director at 412-365-2725 or dbrown@chatham.edu.

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