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Sayfie Review Featured Column

by Dr. Susan MacManus
September 21, 2010

The Ladies Throw Their Hats in the Ring:

Nearly 200 Florida Women Run for Federal and State Offices in 2010

 

Dr. Susan A. MacManus, USF

(With the assistance of Mary L. Moss and Brian D. McPhee,

 USF Undergraduate Honors College students)

 

By the end of Florida’s 2010 candidate qualifying deadlines, nearly 200 women had qualified for a congressional or state office—26% of all candidates. (See Table 1.) Both parties are well-represented among the candidates. Overall, 30% of the women running are Democrats, while 24% are Republicans—a level of near parity that we have not seen in Florida in recent years. In fact, the party balance among female candidates in 2010 is much closer than among Florida’s male candidates (Republicans outnumber Democrats 36% to 21%).    

Female candidates are competing for three of the state’s top executive-level positions. In the spotlight are Alex Sink (D),who is running for governor, Pam Bondi (R) for attorney general, and Lorrane Ausley (D) for chief financial officer. Jennifer Carroll (R) is the lieutenant governor running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott. Each has the opportunity to make history as a path-breaker.[1]Lots of other Florida women are running for Congress, for state legislative offices, and for judgeships (District Court of Appeals; Circuit Court).

Not all women are running as major party (Democrat, Republican) candidates. Some have filed as candidates for third or minor parties (4%), while others (7%) are running as no party affiliation (NPA) candidates or write-ins (5%). By law, all judicial candidates must run as nonpartisans; 35% of all female candidates are running for nonpartisan judicial posts. 

All female candidates, regardless of party or office sought, face challenges when it comes to how they must campaign: “Women in politics have a harder row to hoe. They must be ladies in the traditional sense. They must be genteel and attractive while having a will of iron and the wit of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is not fair. It is not just, but it is so.”[2] There is widespread agreement among political consultants and scholars that voters pay closer attention to the physical attributes and mannerisms of female candidates than to those of their male counterparts, particularly when viewing television/video campaign ads.[3]

                       

Female Candidacies Rise During Periods of Economic Recession and/or Corruption

Women run for office for a lot of different reasons, but knowledge of voters’ perceptions of their relative competencies and integrity often draw them into the political ring. The nearly 200 women who have chosen to run for a federal or state office in 2010 picked a time when Florida and the nation are in a deep recession and voters are in an angry anti-incumbent mood, fed up with political cronyism and corruption, and desperate for economic revival.

During economic downturns, voters search for candidates they believe will be the best at balancing budgets and managing with less. Women candidates tend to benefit from this. They are perceived as having more credibility when they promise to be more fiscally frugal because in a majority of households in America, women control the purse strings. 

Women are also enticed to run for office when corruption is perceived as rampant. Voters tend to think of women candidates as having a bit more integrity and being more honest than male candidates, particularly male incumbents.

 

Table 1. Candidates (Qualified) By Office and Gender: 2010

Office Sought
Total Candidates
Female
Candidates
Male
Candidates
Congress
 
#
%
#
%

    U.S. Senate

 22
4
18
18
82

    U.S. House

117
23
20
94
80
State Executive
 
 
 
    Governor
 14
1
7
13
93
    Attorney General
   6
2
33
4
67
    Ag Commissioner
   4
-
-
4
100

    Chief Financial Officer

   4
1
25
3
75
State Legislature
 
 
 

    Florida Senate

 59
20
34
39
66

    Florida House

316
77
24
239
76
State Judicial
 
 
 

    District Court of Appeals

 27
8
30
19
70
    Circuit Court
186
61
33
125
67
TOTAL (All Offices)
755
197
26
558
74
Source: Calculated from Florida Division of Elections data.
 

Female Candidacy Patterns

            Reflective of the times we’re in, as well as the presence of term limits, 67% of all female candidates are not incumbents seeking reelection. Many are first-time candidates. Other candidacy patterns (Table 2) are:

No Republican or Democratic women filed to run for the U.S. Senate; of the 4 who did, 2 ran as NPAs and 2 as write-in candidates.

The only office that had women candidates in all party categories was the U.S. House.

A higher proportion of female congressional candidates are Democrats (52%); 35% are Republicans.

Only one female filed to run for governor out of 14 candidates.

Among the 3 women seeking a Cabinet post, the two Republican women chose to run for the same office (Attorney General), while the Democrat is running for CFO (a position being vacated by another Democratic female). No female is seeking the Commissioner of Agriculture post.

39 females ran in races with multiple female candidates: 18 (46%) in judicial races; 11 (28%) in state legislative races; 8 (21%) in U.S. House races, and 2 (5%) for a Cabinet post (Attorney General).[4] (Figures are not reported in Table 2.)

While a higher proportion of female candidates seeking a state senate or state house seat are Democrats, the gap between the parties is narrower than for congressional seats. For the state house, 48% of the female candidates are Democrats, 42% Republicans. For the state senate, 40% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans.

One-fourth of the female candidates running for the state senate are running as write-ins.

Over one-third (35%) of all female candidates are seeking a judicial post.

 

Table 2. Female Candidates by Party Status (Percent is of Female Candidates for a Specific Office)

Office Sought/Number of Women Candidates
Democrat
Republican
Minor Party
No Party Affiliation
Non-Partisan
Write-In
 
#
%
#
%
#
%
#
%
#
%
#
%
Congress
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

     U.S. Senate (n=4)

-
-
-
-
-
-
2
50
-
-
2
50

     U.S. House (n=23)

12
52
8
35
1
4
1
4
-
-
1
4
State Executive
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Governor (n=1)
1
100
-
-
-
-
-
-