In 2013, an all female gubernatorial ticket should not be front-page news. However, Democrats Barbara Buono and Milly Silva could make history if they are able to unseat Governor Chris Christie.
As highlighted in an earlier PolitckerNJ article, they are only the third all-female gubernatorial ticket in the country’s history. While Republican Christine Todd-Whitman served as Governor from 1991 to 2001, Buono is the first female Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Nationwide, only 6 out of 50 states have a female governor.
In Congress, women have not fared much better. The state has never had a female Senator and has sent just five women to the U.S. House of Representatives. The most recent, Marge Roukema (R), served from 1981 to 2003.
On a national level, women hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress. In fact, the United States lags behind much of the world in the number of women in our national legislature, coming in at 90th.
On a more local level, New Jersey’s state legislative has progressively included more women. The state ranked 42nd in 2000 in terms of female representation, but steadily climbed to 11th in 2013. Female lawmakers now make up 30 percent of the state legislature.
So why aren’t women making the same gains in higher political office?
As highlighted in a 2009 Rutgers University study, financial and political backing may have a lot to do with it. The study found that approximately one-third of female candidates say that someone tried to discourage them from running, frequently an officeholder or political party official. It also found that party support is more critical to their political success. Women are more likely than men to say that party support was very important to their decision to run.
Finally, money matters in politics. The Rutgers study revealed that most women believe that it is harder for female candidates to raise money than male candidates. In many cases, they are correct. Male U.S. House incumbents raised an average of $196,281 more than women in 2008. Similarly, the top three women who enjoyed incumbency advantage in 2008 raised approximately $33 million, which was $16 million less than the total for their male counterparts.