Sandra O'Brien for Treasurer

Where are the women?

The Ohio Republican Party finds itself in a difficult situation of having fewer and fewer women elected to office.  We all realize this is a problem.  There are currently 105 elected Republicans in Congress, the General Assembly and Executive Statewide Offices in Ohio.  Out of these 105 elected officials only 13 are women.  As I travel across the state I’m constantly asked by both men and women where are the female elected officials?  Where are the female candidates?  It seems to be a problem we are all aware of and yet no one is able to put their finger on the exact reason why this problem exists. There is an institutional bias that needs to be corrected.  

Having been through the political process myself I can narrow the problem down to two specific areas.  These two areas are probably the biggest hindrance to women entering the political arena.  They are fundraising and endorsements. The argument that a female candidate is not qualified because she cannot raise funds that are readily available to men is the single biggest factor holding women back. One of the first things a Republican candidate is asked to do after declaring their candidacy is to go in front of a screening committee either at the state or county level.  This is known as the endorsement process.  During this interview one of the main questions is how much money can you raise for your campaign?  A man running for office has typically built up a network that gives him access to campaign funds.  Women, on the other hand, have not built up this network.  Women get a later start. We’ve been raising children and taking care of elderly parents.  We haven’t built up networks that would help us when we enter politics. As a result of not being able to compete at the fundraising level, women are not as likely to receive the committee’s endorsement.  Thus the screening committee does its job and most likely screens out the woman candidate.  It’s a catch 22.  If a woman can’t raise funds, she can’t get the endorsement.  If she can’t get the endorsement, she can’t raise the funds.  The result is fewer women candidates. 

State GOP chairman Jane Timken was asked whether she would support endorsements in Republican primaries after she took office.  She said no.  Mrs. Timken is correct.  However I can only imagine the amount of resistance she has encountered with regard to this issue.  I would hope she would continue to push for the abolition of the endorsement system. 

What it comes down to is whether or not we have faith in the Republican voter.  The endorsement process discourages people from running for office and deprives Republican voters of a choice in the Primary.  We need an open Primary.  In my first attempt at statewide office, I went in front of 37 screening committees and received no endorsements.  I persevered and was victorious in the Primary.   So my advice to Republican women who are considering running for public office is not to be intimidated by the endorsement process and file your petitions to run in the Primary.  Know that you will be the underdog.  Know that you will be outspent.  Know that you will have to work harder than your opponent. If you do not run in the Primary you certainly cannot win in the General Election.

Electing more women to public office can only strengthen our Republican Party.   We must do better than 13 out of 105.


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