Gender gap in state elections

In state and local politics, too many Kentucky women remain behind the scenes and on the sidelines of important policy decisions because they make up only a small percentage of candidates seeking and winning election to public office. It’s good to see Republicans taking aim at this inequity with the announcement they are establishing Kentucky Strong, an organization that will recruit and train women to run for office. Democrats have a similar group already in place called Emerge Kentucky.

“Kentucky lags far behind in cultivating women leaders,” state Sen. Julie Racque Adams said in a news release. “I don’t want Kentucky women to be in the bottom fifth of influence. I want Kentucky women to be Kentucky strong.”

The Louisville Republican, who is one of 23 female state lawmakers, will serve as executive director of Kentucky Strong.

Women are 16.7 percent of the General Assembly with four in the Senate and 19 in the House. Kentucky trails other states in this respect. Nationwide, 24.3 percent of state legislators are women.

Over the past five years, the most women serving in the General Assembly was 26 in 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a nonpartisan organization.

There is only one woman from the southern Pennyrile in the General Assembly, Rep. Martha Jane King, D-Lewisburg. Also, Christian County Historian William T. Turner confirms that no woman from here has ever been elected to the General Assembly.

In local elections, women have been more likely to run for city offices in Hopkinsville, Oak Grove, Crofton, LaFayette and Pembroke — but county offices have attracted a limited number of women. To our knowledge, the late Sherry Jeffers was the only woman ever elected to Christian Fiscal Court. She served as a county magistrate in the 1970s and also was the only woman elected mayor of Hopkinsville.

Previously, women have been elected county clerk, but no woman has been elected county attorney, sheriff or jailer. (A woman was appointed jailer to serve out her husband’s term when he died during the Civil War.) Commonwealth’s Attorney Lynn Pryor and Property Valuation Administrator Angie Strader are the first women to serve in those county posts.

We applaud the fact that Republicans and Democrats now each have a statewide organization dedicated to chipping away at the gender gap for elective office.

Men should not dominate public policy decisions. Not in 2015. It’s time for more women to view themselves as capable and worthy of being elected — especially to the county offices and seats in the General Assembly that historically have drawn few, if any, women as candidates.

Among the likely candidates for these and other offices are women who have been running campaigns for men. A shift is long overdue.

Kentucky New Era

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