HARRISBURG (KDKA) – Next Tuesday’s election features something a little unusual in Pennsylvania — lots of women on the ballot. This state has not always been friendly to women candidates, but that may be slowly changing.
Thirty years ago, only one out of ten state lawmakers was a woman. Today, it’s about a quarter of the legislature — an improvement but hardly parity.
But this year, more women that even are on the ballot.
“Women candidates made a big splash in 2018, and I think more Americans are getting comfortable with having women candidates on the ballot,” Dr. Dana Brown told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
Brown is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.
At least 27 women are on the ballot locally, including two state Senators — Pam Iovino (D/37th District) and Kim Ward (R/39th District) — along with two more women running against male Senators — Shelbie Stromyer (D/21st District) and Nicole Ziccarelli (R/45th District).
Statewide, three of the six major party candidates are women — Heather Heidelbaugh (R-running for Attorney General), Stacy Garrity (R-running for Treasurer), and Nina Ahmad (D-running for Auditor General).
“It’s exciting to see so many women running statewide,” says Brown.
Locally, we have no female members of Congress, and only one female candidate is on the ballot for Congress in this region. That is Kristy Gnibus, an Erie Democrat, running against U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler.
“We do tend to have a stronger, increased number of women in politics in the eastern part of the Commonwealth,” says Brown.
That’s true. The four Pennsylvania women in Congress come from back east, not here.
The big change is the state House of Representatives.
Right now we have eight local female state representatives, including PA Rep. Marci Mustello (R/11th), PA Rep. Sara Innamorato (D/21st), PA Rep. Lori Mizgorski (R/30th), PA Rep. Summer Lee (D/34th), PA Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R/40th), PA Rep. Valerie Gaydos (R/44th), PA Rep. Anita Astorino Kulik (D/45th) and PA Rep. Pam Snyder (D/50th) .
Eleven other women are running for state House in this area, including Lynne Ryan (R/9th), Kolbe Cole (D/10th), Emily Kinkead (D/20th), Emily Skopov (D/28th), Lissa Geiger Shulman (D/30th), Carrie DelRosso (R/33rd), Jessica Benham (D/36th), Linda Book (R/38th), Sara-Summer Oliphant (D/39th), Sharon Guidi (D/40th), and Michelle Knoll (D/44th).
In fact, in three districts — the 30th, 40th and 45th — women are running against each other.
“I love it. It’s exciting to know that we are normalizing women leadership, normalizing women running in the southwestern region,” says Brown.
Brown thinks we could end up with as many as ten women in the state House from this area, and perhaps more.
Bottom line: this year you’ll find more gender diversity on the ballot than ever.