Nationally, this year may be shaping up to be a watershed moment for women running for elected office. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University reported 234 women won House nominations in primaries around the country this year, up from 167 women two years ago.
But how does Ohio measure up?
Aside from the statewide office races, Ohio boasts 10 women running for Congress in the major parties: challengers Jill Schiller in the 2nd District, Janet Garrett in the 4th District, Shawna Roberts in the 6th District, Vanessa Enoch in the 8th District, Theresa Gasper in the 10th District, Betsy Rader in the 14th District, and Susan Moran Palmer in the 16th District.
This year also includes re-election fights for incumbents Joyce Beatty in the 3rd District, Marcy Kaptur in the 9th District, and Marcia Fudge in the 11th District. All of the women Congressional candidates are running as Democrats.
Betsy Rader from the 14th District is getting some attention for her campaign against Republican incumbent Rep. Dave Joyce.
Barbara Palmer – a political science professor at Baldwin Wallace University and director of the Center for Women and Politics of Ohio – said it is important to remember the race is in a gerrymandered district. Currently it’s rated as “likely Republican.”
“But it is really interesting that she is getting traction,” Palmer says. “Again, I think this has to do with this 'Blue Wave' that some people are expecting to hit the rest of the country. If that happens, then she’s got a shot, but I think that’s highly unlikely.”
Joyce, who has been re-elected several times, is now running attack ads against Rader. Palmer said while this might seem like “overkill,” it might be a smart move.
“If you’re a smart incumbent, you know that the minute you start taking a race for granted… voters can sniff that out,” Palmer says. “You don’t want to be perceived as having it ‘in the bag.’”
Running those ads is his “insurance policy,” she says.
On top of the seemingly struggling campaign is a gerrymandered district leaning Republican.
“As far as I know, the race is still rated… most likely is going to elect a Republican. In those races, people don’t want to waste their money,” Palmer says. “Why should you throw your money at a candidate you know is going to lose?
Women raising money to run is not the only important factor in this year’s election. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, women have been successful with financial support coming from women on the Democratic side.
Palmer says there is not only a spike in women running, but also a spike in women donating and in how much they are giving.
“Since the ‘90s, quite surprisingly, female candidates actually raise on average more than their male counterparts,” she says. “This is true whether we’re talking about female incumbents or female challengers or open seats, and women PACs play a role in this.”
Typically, women candidates get more of their money from other women, but women usually give less. But she says women will make a bigger contribution this year.
“Almost 40 percent of all contributors will be female this year,” Palmer says.
Where Are All The Republican Women?
Most of the women running in Ohio's elections are Democrats, but Palmer sees a bigger problem.
“The bottom line is that neither party makes recruiting female candidates a priority,” Palmer says. “Both parties are great at giving lip service to this, and if you talk to party leaders they will say, ‘Yes, recruiting women is important,’ but that’s about it.”
But women who run are just as likely to win as men. In the Ohio primaries, women had very high success rates, where women were often doing better than the male candidates.