This election cycle, more women ran for Congressional office than ever before, with 18 running for the Senate and 141 for the House. In New York, both candidates for the Senate race were women; two of the three candidates for the 24th Congressional District race, one of the nation’s most hotly contested seats, were women.
At the state level, meanwhile, 20 women ran for state senate, while 67 put their names on the ballot for state assembly. That doesn’t include write-in candidates. The 2012 election saw the second-highest number of women running for state office nationwide, with 2,440 female candidates on the ballots. The record was set in 2010.
These are encouraging numbers, but are they enough? Women make up 51 percent of the population, but just 16.8 percent of Congress, according to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics. New York is one of just 26 states to have female representatives in the House, and four states (Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi and Vermont) have never elected a woman to Congress.
Things are slightly better at the state level; out of 62 members of the state senate, 10 are women, and 35 members of the state assembly are female. That means the state legislature is 21.2 percent female.
Again, when half the population is female, it’s important that half our representation in government represent that. While we’re pleased to see women running for national office, we want to see them running at the state level, as well. None of the candidates running for assembly or state senate in Onondaga County were female, save for Diane Dwire, who added her name as a write-in candidate a week before the election. When issues such as birth control and the wage gap are major topics of conversation, it is imperative that women are in office to help discuss legislation on them, on both sides of the aisle.
Our own senator, Kirsten Gillbrand, put it best: “If we had 51 percent of women in Congress, do you think we’d be debating birth control? No, we’d be debating the economy and jobs and national security… and everything that matters.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.