Archive for April, 2015

Women finding success in statewide judge votes

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on April 14th, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

April 12, 2015 12:00 AM

By Chris Potter/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


There are 24 judges sitting on the state Superior Court and Commonwealth Court: 17 of them are women. And depending on the outcome of this year’s Supreme Court race, women could end up holding a majority of elected judgeships on all three statewide appeal courts.

What does that mean for the political status of women in Pennsylvania, where they have a notoriously hard time winning elected office?

“I think it means maybe I should run for Superior Court judge,” said Susan Frietsche, a lawyer with the Women’s Law Project.

Observers cite several reasons for why women have had so much success in such contests. For starters, there’s a steady supply of candidates: Women have made up a majority of law-school graduates since the early 1990s, noted Heather Arnet, who heads the Women and Girls Project.

Judicial candidates also rarely have to overcome the advantages of incumbency, like superior name recognition and fundraising, that officeholders enjoy in other branches of government. (Once elected, incumbent judges only have to run for retention — a straight-up-or-down vote — every 10 years, until they retire or are removed.)

“Female candidates do well in open races, where they aren’t competing against traditional party support,” said Ms. Arnet.

But even in judicial races, that’s more true in some cases than others.

“Pennsylvanians will tell you that women do well in judicial races, but it’s really only on those intermediate statewide courts,” said Dana Brown, executive director of Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Women do much worse when running at the county level, she said: Once those seats are considered, women hold just over one in four seats on the Pennsylvania bench — barely an improvement over the legislature, where one in five officeholders are female.

“There’s something unique happening on the statewide level,” Ms. Brown said. “It’s really a puzzle.”

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Run, she said: Cokie Roberts on the dearth of women in politics

Posted in In the News, Women in PA on April 3rd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics did Pittsburghers a favor Wednesday by bringing to the city author and journalist Cokie Roberts.

Ms. Roberts — formally Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts (her brother couldn’t pronounce “Corinne,” so she became “Cokie”) — is a senior news analyst for National Public Radio and the author or co-author of five books. From Louisiana, Ms. Roberts’ family was American political royalty. Her father, Hale Boggs, was a U.S. House majority leader and her mother, Lindy Boggs, was a House member for 18 years and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Her topic in a speech was consistent with a goal of the organization that invited her to Pittsburgh, that the United States would benefit from greater participation by women in elected political life at the national, state and local levels. Ms. Roberts quoted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said that body “is so much better because of women … they have changed the dynamic of the Senate.” Although women now occupy 20 of the seats in the 100-person chamber, that’s still a small percentage since they make up half the population.

Ms. Roberts noted that Pennsylvania’s record is particularly weak. The state has a 20-member congressional delegation — two senators, 18 House members and none of them female. “Run,” she urged women in the audience.

Read More at the

‘Women in Politics’ moderator reveals sobering stats about state’s lack of diversity

Posted in In the News on April 3rd, 2015 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Barbara Miller
Staff Writer

CANONSBURG – Pennsylvania ranks 39th of 50 state Legislatures for its proportion of women.

There are nine women out of 50 state senators and 36 women among 203 state House members, making up just 17.8 percent of the total. Thirty-eight of 67 counties have no women serving as county commissioner, a member of a county council or as a county executive.

“There should be gasps all across the room,” said Dana Brown, executive director of the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, Pittsburgh, at a “Women in Politics” forum Thursday night at Southpointe.

In a wide-ranging discussion, women who have overcome this dismal record talked about what it takes to beat the statistics.

In 1995, Diana Irey Vaughan was the first woman elected Washington County commissioner.

In the same year, Katherine B. Emery was the second woman elected to the Washington County bench, and in January, she became the Washington County’s second female president judge. In 2012, Pam Snyder was the first woman to represent Washington and Greene county in the General Assembly. And last November, Camera Bartolotta became the first woman to represent Washington County in the state Senate.

Irey Vaughan revealed when she ran for state treasurer in 2012, she introduced herself to her opponent, Democratic incumbent Rob McCord. “He looked me up and down and said, ‘Now I know why my buddy said, ‘If this was a beauty contest, you’ll lose, Rob,’” commenting Irey Vaughn was “really pretty.” McCord won another term as treasurer, but pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court to extortion in connection with his unsuccessful run for governor. He is awaiting sentencing.

Bartolotta said Republicans approached her in 2012 about running against Democratic state Rep. Peter Daley, but it was not long after her husband died from a four-year battle with lymphoma, and she declined.

The party again asked her to run two years later, this time, for state Senate. Her daughter, who was in college, came home from Ohio University and mentioned a sorority sister was going to be embarking on a mission trip.

Guatemala or Mexico sprang to Bartolotta’s mind as possible destinations, but she was shocked when she heard where the student was headed: Monessen.

“That was it for me,” said Bartolotta, a Monongahela resident. She announced a run which culminated in the defeat of state Sen. Tim Solobay, a Canonsburg Democrat.

Emery was a school board member, county solicitor and delegate to the 1992 Democratic National Convention which nominated Bill Clinton in his successful run for the White House. Sensing a sea-change in county government in 1995 as Frank Mascara departed for Congress, she thought of running for commissioner but instead focused on a judgeship.

“I turned 40 and became both a mother and a judge in a span of two months,” she told her audience. Emery encouraged women who are thinking of breaking into politics to run, as she did, for school board or try for a local appointed office such as membership on a zoning board.

Snyder warned that women in politics must develop a thick skin. “The social media makes it worse,” she said. “You know who it’s really hard on? My family. My husband, my kids” and even grandchildren. Facebook, Twitter and the online comment posts on local news stories can all bring out viciousness, she and Emery pointed out.

They also suggested that in this local election year, someone who might want to get her feet wet should volunteer for a campaign.

After the conclusion of the discussion, one audience member, Kelley Hoover Heckathorne, director of brokerage services for Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services Inc., Pittsburgh, said, “There are women in politics in Washington County, and I wanted to hear why and how they got into it. It empowers us. I think it was very inspiring.” Read More at