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Year of the Woman doesn’t pan out in Ohio

November 7, 2018

Year of the Woman doesn’t pan out in Ohio

CLEVELAND, Ohio —The Year of the Woman — the much-buzzed swell of female political energy during the 2018 election, largely on the Democratic side — fell short here.

Democrat Secretary of State candidate Kathleen Clyde was the lone woman running solo on Ohio’s statewide slate. Clyde lost by an 5 percent margin, with 97 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial elections results from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Betty Sutton was part of a losing ticket with Rich Cordray.

Still, women voting at a Cleveland polling place near Gordon Square Tuesday expressed enthusiasm about the increase in women candidates.

“I find it really inspiring that we’re having more women running than ever before,” said Jule Knezevich, a 31-year-old Democrat. “I think that it’s great for the younger generation they have more role models now, more powerful female role models in politics that we didn’t have at the same level when we were growing up.”

“I do think it’s important for women to be represented in our government,” said Elizabeth Thomason, also a 31-year-old Democrat. “I think the fact that more women are running should be more incentive for everyone to vote, not just women.”

Only nine women in Ohio history have held statewide office.

Nationally, more women, mostly on the Democratic side, filed to run for U.S. Senate and House in 2018 than ever before, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. A record number of those women won their primaries.

A record number of those women won their primaries. As of 11:12 p.m. Tuesday night, 16 women won their U.S. Senate races and 47 women won their U.S. House races, according to unofficial results and the CAWP.

In Ohio, this political energy failed to coalesce into competitive races for female political newcomers. The eight women congressional candidates in Ohio who challenged incumbents or ran for an open seat in the U.S. House faced long odds this year.

“I don’t think it’s surprising. When you look at how gerrymandered Ohio’s house districts are, it’s just virtually impossible for anybody new to take those districts,” said Baldwin Wallace University Professor Barbara Palmer, who studies women in politics.

The most competitive among them, Democrat Betsy Rader lost by 14 percent to incumbent Dave Joyce in Ohio’s 14th district, which includes Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties. The three female congressional incumbents, Marcy Kaptur, Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty, predictably won.

Why?

The state’s gerrymandered congressional districts nearly cement four safe Democratic seats and 12 safe Republican districts. This means it’s a struggle for any candidate running in a district not drawn to favor their party — as all of the newcomer female candidates were.

Seven of the eight female newcomers ran against incumbents — and it’s always more difficult to win against an incumbent. The only woman campaigning for an open seat, Democrat Susan Moran Palmer, ran against Republican Anthony Gonzales in the Republican-leaning 16th district, and was never able to raise a meaningful amount of campaign cash.

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