The Long Run: Record Numbers Of Women Running For Office
one of the largest political stories of the past two years has been the women becoming more active in politics after Tisch traditionally being underrepresented. Many women are running for office for the first time in the first installment of a KQED series. The long run. Katie or talks to some of these women about why they chose to run and what challenges they are facing. On a recent steamy night in Roseville California just north of Sacramento a crowd of people fills a small office suite in a strip mall. They're there to hear from the woman they hope will unseat five term Republican Congressman Tom McClintock. So without further ado please join me our next Congress Congresswoman Jessica. Your Democrat or Democrat. Jessica Morse is 36 a first time candidate and optimistic about her odds in a district Republicans generally consider a safe seat in past elections. McClintock has typically pulled in about 60 percent of the vote but Morse believes her strong ties to the area will help put her over the top. The issues we face here they're not partisan. It doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat if a forest fires come in and burn down your home. And so we deserve somebody who's going to fight for our community. Morse is among a record number of women running for federal office this year. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University reports more than 50 women filed to run for U.S. Senate while over 470 filed to run for the U.S. House. Both record highs. The center's Kelly Ditmar says for progressive women the 2016 election of President Donald Trump acted as a catalyst. But she says regardless of political ideology policy is what most women tend to focus on on the campaign trail whether it be health care immigration or tax reform that they want to see taken into consideration changed to protected that inspires them to be at the policy making table to be sure that their perspective and their voices are heard. School psychologist Jacqueline Marino decided she wanted her voice to be heard after the 2016 election. So she started a political activist group. Like a lot of women Marino was asked to run for office several times but she says she seriously started thinking about it after she and her 10 year old daughter realized that out of all the people representing them at the federal state and local levels only four were women. And so we had a really long talk about that and about you know having a seat at the table. And then she looked at me and said Mom you should run for office and people have said that in the past. But it really hit home coming for my daughter and it was like hey why can't I run for office I can do this. So Marino took the plunge and is running for a board position in the consumerist Community Service district. The five member currently all male board oversees parks rec centers and fire departments in an area south of Sacramento. Marino says too many women underestimate the value they could bring to an office. But a lot of times women think Oh I've just raise kids. I don't know enough. Oh I've just worked and managed a household. I don't know enough. But you do. And it's been so amazing to see women step forward and say No it's our time we can do this. But just because they're optimistic doesn't mean there aren't a ton of challenges along the way. Fundraising reaching potential voters dealing with opponents. Janell Horne a registered Republican is running for Eldorado County Clerk Recorder. She was recruited to run for the nonpartisan position when it opened. And with her background in mortgage lending she thought she was the obvious choice. But she's running against a long term member of a local school board who some believe should be next in line for the job he's done his time it's his time to be in this position even though he doesn't have any experience related to this position. You know those are the things that you have to get around like OK. Yes it's a good person but is it a good fit. Horne was the top vote getter in the primary and is in a competitive race. But the political reality is many of the women running for office will lose Rutgers. Kelly Ditmar says those losses shouldn't be viewed as failures but should be celebrated because so many more women got in the race for the California Report. I'm Katie or KQED is Katie or joins me now and Katie welcome. Thanks Maureen. When you began working on this series you sent out a survey looking for women running for office. What kind of responses did you get. We got a really great response we got about 50 women who filled out the form. Most of those were first time candidates we got a couple who are running for office a second or even third time and we got a couple of women who have not been running but have really stepped up their political activism primarily since the November 2016 campaign. We got responses from across the state primarily in the Bay Area. But then we did get some from the Central Valley Sacramento down in Orange County. A lot of them were women who have been inspired to run because of the Donald Trump presidency. But we did also hear from women on the Republican side who you know had an opportunity come up and they decided to take advantage of it. How did you go about selecting the four women that you'll follow for this series. We wanted to have women from different parts of the state and then we also just selected women who were you know their stories stood out in one way or another for instance were following a woman named Betty Valencia who's running for city council in the city of Orange and she was in fired to run after the city council there passed a resolution opposing the sanctuary state law. She is a Latina immigrant moved here when she was a kid. She's also from the LGBT community and so she was feeling like her voice in the city wasn't being heard. So she is making a run for office. We chose a woman who's running for school board here in Sacramento because a lot of the women that we're talking to are running for quote unquote smaller offices. You know that they feel they can make a big impact in their community and they're not necessarily party partisan. We're following a woman who's running in Eldorado County just east of Sacramento for the County Clerk Recorder position. And that's interesting because she got into the race as you heard thinking that you know. No problem I'm totally qualified for this and she's running into sort of the the political good old boys club and then we we're following a woman who is running for city council in Hayward near San Francisco and she is Arab American and younger. And we thought she would have an interesting experience to share as well. Now you know all candidates have challenges like fund raising and trying to get out their names so they get name recognition. But do you find that women candidates face special challenges. Well it's the story that we've heard for a while. I mean women have always had a more difficult time getting involved in politics because you know like it or not the majority of housework and child rearing still tends to fall to women. So you see them being a bit more hesitant to get involved in something that might take more time away from their families. And in these candidates that we're following you do hear some of that. For instance mile Jenkins the woman running for school board here in Sacramento has two children a husband and her mother is sick and she's also campaigning. And so it's just a big strain. You know as one of the primary caregiver for those people she has to manage all that. And the campaign. And so those are the challenges that we hear from women. And of course there is the perception that politics is nasty and they don't want to get involved. But again a lot of the women who were replied to our survey said we need more women in politics. And if I don't do it who's going to do it. It sounds like many of the women are facing uphill climbs against sort of established candidates. Are the women getting much support from their political parties. I think it depends on the race. Certainly we've seen for instance Katie Hill's running for Congress against Steve Knight and in a congressional district in her district is one of those that the party really believes that it can win. And so President Barack Obama came in for instance and endorsed her. So in those circumstances yes people are getting support. But for people who are running for smaller offices who don't have a lot of money. And maybe not a lot of publicity and name recognition. It is more of a challenge and that is something that a lot of these women are very aware of the fact that many of them if not most of them will lose. We saw a lot of that in the primaries but even going forward in the general election and that's one of the questions I was asking people for. You heard Jacqueline Marino in that story. I spoke to her and said you know if you lose we're going to run again and she said absolutely I'm not afraid of it. And I did speak to a researcher who said women do tend to run again just as much as men if if they do lose. But on the whole people who lose men and women are not likely to run again because it's you know a draining experience but at least from that perspective women are not any different from men. The most current research shows what's coming up next in your series the long run. Yeah I'm going to be working on a story about political ads and how these candidates get their message out there and distinguish themselves anywhere from people running for Congress to people running for smaller offices in smaller cities. You know how do they distinguish themselves make voters aware of them because it's a heavy lift when you think about some of these races you're talking about having to contact thousands of voters who might not even be aware of the position that you're running for. They don't even know it exists. And so you're trying to not only tell them what it is but try and get their support over whoever else might be running. So it can be quite a heavy lift for some of these women. I've been speaking with KQED Katie or. And Katie thank you. You're welcome.
On a recent steamy night in Roseville, California, just north of Sacramento, a crowd of people filled a small office suite in a strip mall. They were there to hear from the woman they hope will unseat five-term Republican Congressman Tom McClintock.
After an impassioned introduction from her staff and rousing welcome from the audience, Democrat Jessica Morse took the mic.
"Wow! Thank you all for being here!" she cried.
Morse is 36 and a first-time candidate. She's optimistic about her odds in a district Republicans generally consider a safe seat. In past elections McClintock has typically pulled in about 60 percent of the vote. But Morse believes her strong ties to the area — her family has lived in the district for five generations — will help put her over the top.
“The issues we face here, they’re not partisan," she said. "It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or Democrat if a forest fire is coming to burn down your home. So we deserve someone who’s going to fight for our community.”
Morse is one of 14 female newcomers challenging incumbent California congressional representatives this year. And she is among a record number of women running for federal office in 2018. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University reports 54 women filed to run for U.S. Senate while 476 filed to run for the U.S. House, both record highs.
The Center’s Kelly Dittmar said the election of President Donald Trump did spur many to run.
"We do see consistency, particularly among Democratic progressive women running," Dittmar said. "[And] the 2016 election in some way or in some various ways acted as a catalyst for them to run."
But she said, regardless of political ideology, policy is what most women tend to focus on on the campaign trail.
“What women are talking about in terms of why they're running is still focused on policy," Dittmar said. "Whether it be healthcare, immigration, tax reform... and that inspires them to be at that policy-making table to be sure that their perspective and their voices are heard.”
School psychologist Jaclyn Moreno decided she wanted her voice to be heard after the 2016 election, so she started a political activist group. Like a lot of women, Moreno was asked to run for office several times. But she said she seriously started thinking about it after she realized -- along with her 10-year-old daughter — that out of all the people representing them, at the federal, state and local levels, only four were women.
"So we had a really long talk about that and about having a seat at the table and then she looked at me and said, 'Mom, you should run for office'," Moreno said. "And people have said that to me in the past, but it really hit home coming from my daughter. And it was like, 'yeah, why can’t I run for office? I can do this.'”
So Moreno took the plunge and is running for a board position on the Cosumnes Community Services District. The five member board — currently all-male — oversees parks, recreation centers and fire departments in an area south of Sacramento.
The fact that Moreno was initially hesitant to run for office isn't unusual. Research shows in addition to having to be asked, women are often concerned about how they'll juggle a campaign and their family. Many worry the race will get mean and that fundraising will be difficult. It's also typical for women to doubt whether they are qualified. But Moreno said her experience has shown her too many women underestimate the value they could bring to an office.
“A lot of times women think, 'Oh, I’ve just raised kids, I don’t know enough. Oh, I’ve just worked and managed a household, I don’t know enough.' But you do," she said. "And it’s been so amazing to see women step forward and say no, it’s our time, we can do this.”
But just because they’re optimistic doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of challenges along the way: fundraising, reaching potential voters, dealing with opponents.
Janelle Horne, a registered Republican, is running for El Dorado County Clerk Recorder. She was recruited to run for the non-partisan position when it opened. And with her background in mortgage lending she thought she was the obvious choice. But she’s running against a long-time member of a local school board who some believe should be next in line for the job.
“It’s, 'he’s done his time, it’s his time to be in this position,' even though he doesn’t have any experience related to this position," she said. "Those are the things you have to get around of, like, 'yes, he’s a good person, but is it a good fit?'”
Horne was the top-vote getter in the primary and is in a competitive race. But the political reality is many of the women running for office will lose.
Rutgar’s Kelly Dittmar said those losses shouldn’t be viewed as failures, but should be celebrated because a lot more women got in the race.