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ICYMI: congressional candidate Betsy Rader on the surge of women candidates

August 29, 2018

ICYMI: congressional candidate Betsy Rader on the surge of women candidates

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ohio Democrat Betsy Rader is one of a record-breaking number of women running for Congress this year. 

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

The eight women congressional candidates in Ohio who are challenging incumbents or running for an open seat face long odds this year. The state has three female U.S. representatives, and no female U.S. senators. Ohio has never had a woman senator. 

Rader, who did not face a primary challenger, is running to unseat Republican Dave Joyce in Ohio’s 14th District, which covers Ashtabula, Lake and Geauga counties, and leans Republican, according to the political forecasting website Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Another political website, fivethirtyeight.com, puts her at about a 16.5 percent chance at winning.  

Statewide, among women congressional candidates, she seems to have the best shot of beating an incumbent.

So why are there so many women running this year? 

“So many women are tired of not feeling like they are truly represented,” Rader said on the Ohio Matters podcast last week. 

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Rader said she started seriously considering running during the Republican’s failed attempt to rework healthcare laws. Republican President Donald Trump’s election influenced her decision to run for Congress, too. Last year’s Women’s March also affected her decision, which she announced in April 2017. 

“I would say the seed was planted (after the women’s march.) I can’t say that at the end of the women’s march I was thinking about Congress,” she said. “But certainly I think when I was making the ultimate decision last April whether to declare for Congress all of those things came together because it was really this idea they’re not listening to us, they’re not representing us.” 

Rader said she’s hopeful the increase in women running will mean an increase in women winning. But she admits it’s a tough road. 

“I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that, because there’s still a lot of wind in our face,” Rader said. “There’s some wind behind us but there’s also wind in our face, still.”

Some women are running in gerrymandered districts that are not predicted to be competitive, which makes it difficult to raise money, Rader said. 

Women sometimes face challenges men don’t.

She said raising money can be harder for women like her, who aren’t in circles with big donors.  

“I’ve got a lot of great supporters, they’re not necessarily people who can donate huge sums of money,” Rader said. “So I think women still face this challenge with fundraising.” 

Women are held to a different standard than men, Rader said.

“I’ll have people say to me, ‘Well can you be tough enough?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, I am a trial lawyer,’” Rader said. “There’s still some stereotypes that come into play when you’re a woman running for office.” 

Rader said it’s important to have women represented in elected office. 

“We do bring different perspectives. I have experienced sexual harassment. I have been discriminated against, when I told you the stories in law school: You can’t be a labor lawyer because you’re a girl. I’ve had those experiences. I took time off to stay home with my kids,” Rader said. “I’ve had experiences that a lot of men cannot bring to the table like that.” 

The problem of gender inequality in among Ohio’s political candidates and elected officials isn’t exclusive to its congressional delegation. 

Statewide, women were largely shut out of executive races — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer — this year.  

The statewide executive slate features only two female candidates: Democrat Betty Sutton, for lieutenant governor, and Democrat Kathleen Clyde, for secretary of state. 

The Buckeye State ranks in the middle of the pack nationally at number 33 for female representation in the Ohio statehouse, according to Rutgers’ CAWP.   

Ohio Matters is the weekly politics podcast from cleveland.com. Each week, political reporters Andrew Tobias and Seth Richardson and women’s issues reporter Mary Kilpatrick sit down with political figures from around the state for in-depth discussions. 

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