While it remains to be seen in November whether more women will win, there has been an upsurge of women running for elected offices both nationally and in Kentucky.
“Women are underrepresented at all levels in the 500,000-plus elected offices across the U.S.,” states She Should Run, a non-partisan national organization trying to increase the number of women running for office.
Take the state of Kentucky.
Women make up slightly over 50 percent of the population. In the General Assembly, women make up 16 percent of the elected members, according to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. Nationally, only 20 percent of U.S. Congress members are female, according to CNN.com.
The office of the Kentucky Secretary of State is the registration hub for candidates for state level positions and those representing more than one county. This year, 100 women registered as state legislative candidates. According to Brandon Queen with the Secretary of State’s office, that is a record-breaking number of females running for those offices.
It is unclear how many women will be on the ballot in Madison County this election cycle since some positions have not reached their filing deadlines. But, there are women on the ballot for at least state legislature, the county attorney, Berea city council, and county magistrate positions. Why did they choose to run? And why do they think it matters if more women are public servants?
Three candidates responded to the Register’s questions: Jennie Haymond, Republican candidate for county attorney; Kelly Smith, Democratic candidate for district 89 state representative; and Deanna Frazier, Republican candidate for district 81 state representative.
All three are entering the political arena for the first time, and all three entered the race because they felt their skills, experiences, and perspectives are needed now in office.
“Our community is facing some very difficult struggles and we need to be more preventive in addressing these issues,” Haymond said.
Smith said she decided it was time for her to run, “because I was so frustrated by the cuts to education for the past decade.”
According to Frazier, “I feel my most critical objective is to work with our locally elected officials and community leaders to help bring opportunity to our area.”
The three are running on the strength of their qualifications, not on their gender. None of them want to stereotype, but all believe that women can bring a different leadership style.
“Effective female leaders I’ve known have been primarily interested in getting stuff done. They work on consensus-building behind the scenes and focus on listening to stakeholders before making decisions,” Smith said.
In a similar vein, Frazier added, “I am someone that can take the bull by the horns and work in a collaborative way to simply get things done.”
Since the 2016 election, organizations across the country have sprung up to recruit, assist and train female candidates. In Kentucky, the Democrats have Emerge Kentucky and the Republicans have Kentucky Strong, both with the goal of encouraging and supporting female candidates.
Even with the new support structures, there are positions that do not have female candidates.
“There are some exceptional women out there who would make great leaders but for whatever reason are hesitant in entering public office,” said Haymond.
At least one of the women, if elected, would be a trailblazer in the county. Haymond would be one of the first female county attorneys, according to the Madison County Clerk’s office.
For at least one candidate, having more women in office is important.
“Representation matters,” said Smith. “We need to normalize the image of women leaders so that our girls can strive.”