Report: Pa. ranks 31st nationwide for women’s political participation | Tuesday Morning Coffee

September 1, 2020 7:12 am

Pa’s ‘Fab Four’ (l-r) U.S. Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District; Susan Wild, D-7th District; Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District; and Madeleine Dean, D-4th District on the House floor. (Rep. Dean/Facebook)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

From the halls of Congress to the state Capitol, there are more high-profile women in Pennsylvania politics than ever before.

In Washington D.C., the Keystone State’s ‘Fab Four’: Democratic U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County; Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware County; Chrissy Houlahan, of Chester County, and Susan Wild, of Lehigh County, helped Democrats even up Pennsylvania Capitol Hill delegation to nine Democrats and nine Republicans.

Women also made inroads in the 50-member state Senate and the 203-member state House. Their election, as the Capital-Star reported last year, marked a major shift in the 253-member General Assembly, which has been, and unfortunately remains, a largely male institution. More women, of both parties, are vying for legislative seats this fall and for the statewide row offices.

Despite that progress, a new report casts a stark light on how much ground women have to make up in the nation’s fifth-most populous state.

Pennsylvania ranks 31st nationwide for political participation by women, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Still, it’s an improvement from the think-tank’s last report in 2015, when the state ranked 45th nationwide.

The report took into account such factors as voting and voter turnout, women in elected office and state legislatures, and institutional resources available to them to formulate its findings.

Shanna Danielson, the Democratic candidate for the York County-basd 31st Senate District, acknowledged that women have ground to make up. But, she noted, 11 Democratic women candidates are seeking Senate seats this fall, and she has been encouraged by that.

“For me as a candidate, it boils down to enthusiasm and relatability. When we have more women in office, more women will be inspired to run for office,” she said.

(Screen Capture)

While such women as former Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, and ex-Attorney General Linda Kelly have served in high-ranking roles in state politics, some offices have remained unattainable.

Keystone State voters have yet to put a woman in the Governor’s Office or the U.S. Senate, for instance. As of July 2020, only eight states had female governors: Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota, our sibling site, the Michigan Advance reported.

According to the report, despite making up half the state’s population, women made up 26 percent of the membership of the state House and Senate. Overall the state netted a “D” grade in the report, a mild upgrade from the “D minus” it received in 2015.

“While women constitute a powerful force in the electorate today and inform policymaking at all levels of government, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels and face barriers that often make it difficult for them to exercise political power and assume leadership positions in the public sphere,” the report’s authors, Elyse Shaw, C. Nicole Mason and Adiam Tesfaselassie, wrote.

Overall, Maine ranks first in the study for women’s political participation with a “B+”, and Washington and Michigan rank second and third with a “B”. New Hampshire, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, Iowa and Massachusetts are the rest of the top 10.

State Sen. Maria Collett, D-Montgomery, speaks during a Capitol news conference on bills fighting workplace harassment and discrimination (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Arkansas ranks dead last, followed by Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina, which all earned “F” grades.

The top state for women in elected office is Nevada, followed by New Hampshire, Washington, Maine, Arizona and Michigan, according to the report. Rounding out the top 10 are California, Minnesota, Oregon and Iowa.

Nationally, women hold 23 percent of elected seats in Congress, despite being more than half the population, and about one in three state legislative seats, the report found. The study also notes that women of color are still vastly underrepresented in Congress.

Only four women of color are in the U.S. Senate — Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; Mazie Hirono, D-HI; and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. Women of color make up 9.9 percent of the U.S. House, despite being 18 percent of the population, the report found.

Using an average of 2016 and 2018 data, the state ranked 22nd nationwide in the percentage of women who registered to vote (68.7 percent) and 21st nationwide for the number of women who voted (56.2 percent), the report found. The state ranked 5th nationwide, tied with several states, including New York and Ohio, for the institutional resources available to women, the report found.

As she’s been out on the trail, Danielson, the Senate candidate, said she’s found women to be engaged and looking forward to the election.

“I think what we are seeing in the field right now is a hunger for different perspectives,” she said. “The majority of my volunteers are women, and they are certainly enthusiastic! There’s a real hunger to see women in top spots like Michigan has done. And I think the 2018 election and 2019 municipal election are showing good trends for women in politics.”

As for ensuring that women have equal access to a fair electoral process, the report suggests a number of proposals, including recruiting more women to run for office and higher office, expanding training programs and addressing structural barriers that prevent women from running for office like lack of affordable childcare and paid leave.

The study also recommends broad policy reforms, including combatting gerrymandering with a fair redistricting process; eliminating voter ID laws; and voter safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as instituting electronic voter registration, expanding absentee voting and making election day a paid holiday, the Michigan Advance reported.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
A statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium expired on Monday. Elizabeth Hardison explains what happens next.

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise campaign stop in Pittsburgh on Monday, where he slammed President Donald Trump’s response to violence wracking such American cities as Kenosha, Wisc., Pittsburgh Correspondent Tom Lisi reports.

At the Capitol, families and loved ones of those lost to opioid abuse gathered for a remembrance ceremonyCassie Miller reports.

The Urban League of Philadelphia has launched a reentry program for formerly incarcerated people, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: The COVID-19 pandemic should be a wake-up call for action on climate issuesU.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, and environmental advocate Flora Cardoni write. And two Pennsylvania AFL-CIO officials say the state can have a clean climate and good jobs.

(Photo via pxHere)

The contract between the Philly schools and the union representing teachers expired on Monday and there’s no new deal in place, the Inquirer reports.
Black leaders in Pittsburgh are calling for an investigation into racially charged remarks that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor allegedly made while he was an associate justice of the court, the Post-Gazette reports.
A successful start to the school year could lead to an easing of bar and restaurant restrictionsGov. Tom Wolf said Monday. PennLive has the story.
Bucking a trend, a Lehigh Valley borough has just started its own police department, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens-Voice talks to local Republicans about Veep Mike Pence’s visit to Luzerne County today.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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Mom took me to the point last week i loved it ? #bichonpuppy #bichon #bichonfrisé #bichonfrise #pittsburgh #bichonsofinstagram

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Major Black and Jewish civil rights groups in Philadelphia are teaming up on voter outreach effortsWHYY-FM reports.
An Erie activist has invited men to join her anti-domestic violence crusadeGoErie reports.
President Donald Trump will visit Westmoreland County on Thursday, PoliticsPA reports.
More people with felony records have regained the right to vote, but roadblocks still remain, reports.
Republicans tried to humanize Donald Trump at the RNC last week. But Twitter Trump is louder, Politico reports.

What Goes On.
The House comes in at 11 a.m. this morning. There are a few committee meetings on offer for the day as well.
9:15 a.m, G50 Irvis: House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee
10 a.m, 140MC: House Consumer Affairs Committee
Call of the Chair: House Appropriations Committee

Gov. Tom Wolf 
holds a 10 a.m. newser at the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, where he’ll call on lawmakers to protect renters and homeowners from eviction and foreclosure.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Golf tournament for Rep. Jim Marshall
11:30 a.m.:
 Luncheon for Sen. Pat Browne
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Frank Dermody
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly nauseating $20,000 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Pittsburgh Current Editor Charlie Deitch; veteran Harrisburg PR exec Lucy Raudebaugh Gnazzo, and to NPR politics reporter, and longtime Friend O’the BlogScott Detrow, all of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Kurt Vile to get your Tuesday rolling. It’s ‘Wakin’ on a Pretty Day.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
hung on Monday for a double OT win over Bostonprevailing 3-2, to advance to Round 5 of the playoffs.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.