Archive for June, 2014

Pa, N.J. women face obstacles in political races

Posted in In the News on June 9th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

WASHINGTON – When the smoke cleared from congressional primary season, women had taken one step forward in New Jersey, and one back in Pennsylvania.

The result: Come January, two states with a combined 34 seats in the Senate and House will likely include just one or, at most, two women.

“It’s pathetic,” Julie Roginsky, a New Jersey Democratic consultant, said of her party’s failure to elect a Garden State woman to Congress since 1976.

That drought is likely to end in November, thanks to the results of Tuesday’s primaries. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, a Democrat, won the party’s nomination in a heavily Democratic central New Jersey district and is favored to win in the fall. In South Jersey, Democrats nominated Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard for the seat being vacated by Republican Jon Runyan. She faces a tougher fall race but has a viable shot in a competitive district.

New Jersey, with a 14-person Senate and House delegation, hasn’t had any women in Congress since Republican Margaret Roukema left office Jan. 3, 2003.

In Pennsylvania, with 20 Senate and House seats, the only woman – Democrat Allyson Y. Schwartz of Abington – is on her way out, having run for her party’s gubernatorial nomination and lost in the state’s May 20 primary.

Three women who hoped to replace her (two Democrats and one Republican) also fell short that day, as did Shaughnessy Naughton, a Democrat who sought nomination in the Bucks County-centered Eighth District.

So, barring a major upset, Pennsylvania’s delegation will become all-male when a new Congress begins in January.

“If you don’t have [women] at the table, you don’t really have the full representation of the state’s population,” said Kelly Dittmar, assistant research professor at Rutgers University’s Center on Women in American Politics.

Academic experts and political consultants described a range of structural and cultural obstacles that confront female candidates.

The B word. Men who are aggressive or abrasive, qualities sometimes needed to win in politics, “are considered strong leaders,” said Roginsky, a board member at Yale University’s Women Campaign School. “Women who are aggressive or abrasive are considered bitches.”

Where bosses rule. Congressional maps make most House seats safe for incumbents, who often serve for decades, leaving few chances for newcomers. When seats do open up, support for a replacement is often decided by local party organizations, generally still dominated by men.

Local party bosses have immense sway in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, particularly in congressional races, which typically hinge on support in just one or two counties.

In statewide races, by contrast, New Jersey had a two-term female governor, Christine Todd Whitman, and Pennsylvania in 2012 elected Kathleen G. Kane as attorney general.

Of course, those races are also reminders of a non-gender factor: It takes good candidates to win. Both Kane and Whitman ran smart campaigns that won wide support.

“The party apparatus, while they talk about supporting women, it’s more talk than real action,” said Whitman, a Republican. “I don’t think it’s all sexism, but when the people that you spend your time with all look like you, you tend to support those people.”

When it comes to breaking into the party infrastructure, women are more likely than men to vote and volunteer, but are less likely to write the big political checks that secure access and influence, said Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

Party warlords, Whitman said, “let women run for offices that they think they won’t win. That’s what happened to me in 1990.”

That year, in a race for the U.S. Senate, she took on a popular Democratic incumbent, Bill Bradley. “I got, basically, no support,” she said. National Republicans pulled back a promised $300,000 ad buy 10 days before the election, Whitman said. She lost by three percentage points.

The close race provided a springboard to her gubernatorial run three years later, but Whitman still faced a primary fight, something she said would not have confronted a man who had done so well against Bradley.

Last year, another woman, former State Sen. Barbara Buono, was the Democrats’ sacrificial nominee against Gov. Christie.


Glass Ceilings in Statehouses in the Northeast

Posted in In the News on June 9th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

PHILADELPHIA — The industrial Northeast enjoys a reputation as a cradle of liberalism, a region that voted overwhelmingly for America’s first black president, started the push on same-sex marriage rights and can reliably be found at the forefront of causes for equality. But there is a notable gap: The Democratic Party has yet to elect a female governor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island or Massachusetts.

Even this year, with women running for governor in three of those states, it is uncertain that any of them will break the pattern. The Democratic Party in each state is rooted in urban machine politics and unions, both of which have been traditionally male dominated. And there have been fewer opportunities in those states for women to acquire executive experience in the state and local offices that are traditional steppingstones to running for governor, or to hold the levers of power in political organizations. (Philadelphia, New York and Boston have never elected female mayors.)


Here at a west Philadelphia Democratic ward meeting, a crowd that had gathered Thursday to hear one of the women running for governor, Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz, concentrated more on eating their fried chicken than on listening to her speech, at least until Ms. Schwartz concluded her remarks with a reminder about the stakes in Tuesday’s primary. “With your help, I will be the next governor, the first woman governor,” she said, winning only her second sustained applause of the night, much of it from the women in the room.

In addition to those in Pennsylvania, women in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are vying to break the statehouse glass ceiling. But in all three states, they face contentious primaries. “The western states have done much better,” Ms. Schwartz said in an interview as an aide drove her to another male-dominated meeting of the city’s Democratic organization. “The pioneer states just treated women equally from the start.”

It is no quirk of history, according to a few dozen politicians, scholars and strategists who have examined or experienced firsthand the difficulties women have had in seeking to become chief executives in some of the flagship states of blue America.

“To say the old boys’ club is alive and well is true but trivializes the impact that the vestiges of sexism have on women’s opportunities to lead,” said State Senator Barbara Buono of New Jersey, who ran for her state’s governorship last year, but found little support from its Democratic bosses and was trounced by the incumbent, Gov. Chris Christie. Governor’s races are typically the most coveted political prizes in these states because they bring with them the most patronage jobs, the sort of clout that mostly male power brokers are reluctant to relinquish. Further, unlike with some wealthy men who have successfully run outside of the party apparatus, there have been few Democratic women willing or able to fund their own campaigns.


The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics to hold annual women’s leadership institute June 1-6, 2014

Posted in In the News on June 9th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

PITTSBURGH– The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University will host the annual National Education for Women’s (NEW) Leadership™ Pennsylvania program, a weeklong intensive institute for women college students from colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania. NEW Leadership 2014 will be held Sunday, June 1, through Friday, June 6, and will bring 35 students from 19 different colleges and universities across Pennsylvania to the Chatham University campus.

The program cultivates the next generation of young women leaders by focusing on the role of women in politics and policy making in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Modeled after a program established by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the institute features such topics as leadership in a diverse society, current and historical approaches to women’s participation in politics, networking with Pennsylvania women leaders, and the development of action skills in advocacy and leadership.

This year’s program is supported in part by a $20,000 grant from the EQT Foundation, which identifies and supports the efforts its our operating regions to produce an abundant and well-trained workforce, a diverse and economically viable business climate, and an environmentally safe and stable infrastructure.

“The EQT Foundation is proud to provide continuing support for Chatham’s National Education for Women’s Leadership Pennsylvania Program,” said Charlene Petrelli, President, EQT Foundation. “At EQT, we hold a strong belief in programs that educate and prepare the future generation of leaders in our operating areas. Opportunities such as this program play a critical role in the economic success of the communities that will be touched by these talented women.”

NEW Leadership 2014 will include a dinner honoring Katie McGinty, a former gubernatorial candidate in the 2014 Democratic Party Primary. Katie served for six years as the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and was the first woman to hold the position. In 2008, she joined the private sector and now serves as an operating partner of Element Partners, a clean technology private equity firm, and director at Thar Energy, a Pittsburgh based start up company in geothermal energy.

This year’s program will also feature practitioner-in-residence, Valerie McDonald-Roberts. Valerie brings 24 years of diverse governmental experience having served as appointed Allegheny County Manager of the Department of Real Estate, elected Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, City of Pittsburgh Council Member, and Pittsburgh School Board Member.

As Chief Urban Affairs Officer, Valerie oversees all housing, non-profit and faith-based initiatives of city government, with responsibilities over the Housing Authority, the Commission on Human Relations, and with a particular focus on underserved neighborhoods.

About the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University
The Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) at Chatham University is a non–partisan center devoted to fostering women’s public leadership through education, empowerment, and action. The first to focus on women’s political involvement in Pennsylvania, the PCWP integrates disciplinary knowledge, civic education, and coalition building while examining the intersection of women and public policy. The Center conducts candidate and advocacy trainings, offers educational programs in applied politics, and provides timely analysis on women’s issues. The Center is also home to the University’s membership in Project Pericles – a select group of liberal arts colleges and universities that have made institutional commitments to promoting participatory citizenship and social responsibility.

The Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy was established in 1998 through the generosity of the Hillman Foundation, Inc. and the Maurice Falk Medical Foundation. It was then reconceived and endowed in 2003, by the Hillman Foundation.

About Chatham University
Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa., has a long history of commitment to women’s leadership and issues advocacy, and is the alma mater of environmental icon, Rachel Carson. Today, Chatham is recognized as a leader in the field of sustainability, having been named to The Princeton Review’s Green College Guide listing four years in a row, named to Sierra magazines list of top 25 “cool schools” and mentioned in a Forbes article as one of the places “contributing to Pittsburgh’s transformation into a destination for green living.” Building on these accomplishments, Chatham will open in 2014, the world’s first fully sustainable campuses in higher education, Eden Hall Campus, with completion of the first stage of construction on its 20-year master plan. Rising 19 spots over the past four years in the US News & World Reports Best Colleges rankings, Chatham’s works to prepare its 2,000+ undergraduate and graduate students in the fields of sustainability, health sciences, business and communication, and the arts and sciences.


Governor post eludes women in Pennsylvania

Posted in In the News on June 9th, 2014 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Melissa Daniels

Published: Saturday, May 24, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The first woman to run for governor in Pennsylvania knew she had no shot at victory. And she’d been mired in scandal.

Jennifer Wesner, 80, of Knox in Clarion County was the borough’s mayor in the early 1970s. Then a photographer leaked risque photos of Wesner to national tabloids, from her days as a topless model a decade earlier. Though mortified, Wesner went on to run four campaigns for higher office.

She dove into philanthropy and authored a book on her experiences.

“I would keep running for office, and that’s how I’d get known,” she said. “I became something; I became somebody.”

Wesner’s name has a place in history as the first of seven women to run for governor in Pennsylvania, one of two dozen states where voters never have elected a woman to the office. U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Philadelphia and Katie McGinty, a former environmental administrator in state government, lost the Democratic primary on Tuesday to Tom Wolf, a millionaire businessman from York County.

Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which encourages female leadership in politics, said just 35 women governors have served in the nation’s history; five are in office. To Kimmell and other female-candidate advocates, this poses a policy problem.

“When women are at the table, their unique life experiences are being represented,” she said. “It’s not about whether they’re there just because of their gender.”

Dana Brown, executive director at the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, said the primary election was “a mixed bag with a negative outlook” for female candidates. In addition to postponing the possibility of a woman governor until at least 2018, Schwartz’s loss means that when her term in Congress ends, Pennsylvania’s delegation will be all-male — unless one of six female challengers overtakes an incumbent. Women have 99, or 18.5 percent, of the 535 seats in the U.S. Congress, according the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.

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