There are 31 women in South Carolina running for a seat in the Legislature, more than ever before. They are hoping to overcome the worst record in the nation for representation in the General Assembly: 10 percent, and the Senate has no women. Gov. Nikki Haley, a national rising star in the Republican Party, is one out of six women leading a state. “Marquee names can mask the reality of a state’s politics,” observes Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women in Politics, based at Rutgers University.
“People are seeing in the newspapers every day, women on the from page, making policy, in charge, running the show, but it really masks where we are. In Congress, for instance, only 17 percent of the House and Senate are female,” says Walsh.
The Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics is a non-partisan group tracking and training women who want to run for public office. Barbara Rackes of the institute says the state saw a surge in female candidates in 1992, when a census recount concurrent with a presidential election opened more seats and spurred more interest in politics.
Rackes says, “The opportunity was there….and 23 women were elected.” Yet, this election has become more of a challenge because so many candidates, men and women, were kicked off of the ballot over paperwork confusion, leaving them to run as petition candidates.
Walsh spoke to the candidates as a recent guest of the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics. We interviewed her and Barbara Rackes on their efforts to recruit women of all parties through Mission 2012 and The 2012 Project.
AUDIO: Rackes and Walsh talk about efforts to reach women voters (3:25)
AUDIO: Rackes and Walsh on who should run (5:15)