More women are becoming politically active

Over 500 women are running for local or statewide offices nationwide, according to Center for American Women and Politics

Posted: Jun 6, 2018 9:55 PM

MASON CITY, Iowa - The Iowa primary on Tuesday has set records in terms of how many people voted; over 279,000 ballots were cast across the state.

But there was also another finding from primaries, not just in Iowa, but across the country. More women are becoming politically active, and some have won in their primaries to advance to general elections in November. 57 female candidates nationwide have moved through their individual states' primaries, including several in Iowa.

Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne won their individual U.S. House primaries, while Republicans Annette Sweeney and Mariannette Miller-Meeks won their State Senate primaries.

The news has some local leaders very excited.

State Senator Amanda Ragan was first elected in 2002 during a special election, and has noticed more women becoming politically active.

"It's the time for some women. They're in roles that they feel that they can step away from and give more to the political world."

But she has also it's been a struggle.

"Sometimes that's not easy because politics is what it is. And so it can be a very aggressive arena."

Cerro Gordo County GOP Chairwoman Barbara Hovland became politically active in 1999, hosting events and running campaign offices. In 2013, she was elected Chairwoman, and just recently was elected to sit on the Republican Party of Iowa board.

She notes that state history has been made with women currently serving in four key positions, including the Governor, Speaker of the House, U.S. Senator and State Auditor.

"I'm really proud to say that Iowa has made history in the last few years, and has broken many, many barriers that have been a block for years, so I'm really proud to say that women are stepping up," Hovland says. "From local to state to federal, you're seeing more women step up, and it's very encouraging."

She believes that more women will continue to enter because there are many issues at stake, particularly social issues.

"I think women are encouraged to say, 'Hey, I have an opinion on that, and I think I could fit that role, and I'm going to give it a try', and I'm encouraged by that."

Ragan believes the same will happen, regardless of party affiliation.

"I think it's important to realize how important it is to vote. And it's very important to be involved. You don't have to have your name on the ballot to be involved, but that's a big step because it is your name. I applaud any woman who is up to that challenge."

Bennett Smith is a political science professor at NIACC. He pays close attention to elections, and has noticed a historical trend of more women in both parties in getting involved. He points out that issues such as the "#MeToo" movement and politics in Washington are big factors in this, but he's also noticed another trend.

"The studies show that demographically the millenials are trending toward the Democrats. But in the last 12 years, in Iowa, Republican women have made tremendous gains. And again, in very powerful positions. So they're doing very well in that sense."

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