Commentary: You Have Donald Trump To Thank For The Year Of The Woman In Politics
You may well look at your ballot in November and see the names of more women candidates than you can ever remember – especially for local offices.
About time, many of you will say.
And, to put it in its simplest terms, you have one person to thank for that.
Yes, Donald Trump. During the 2016 campaign, Trump did pretty much everything one could do to alienate women – being insulting and condescending to opponent Hillary Clinton at every turn; speaking about women in the most crude sexual terms on a recording with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, who, for some inexplicable reason, is a celebrity; and suggesting that women in general are a lower form of life.
And yet he won.
And, almost immediately after his election, a movement erupted among Democratic and progressive women that resulted in massive marches in the streets of every major American city, including Cincinnati.
Then, many of the march organizers decided they needed to do much more than march the streets with bullhorns and hand-painted signs.
They needed to act.
They needed to run for office.
And thus, we have record numbers of women running for office at all levels – 118 for the U.S. House, Senate and governorships, with the vast majority of them Democrats.
"We've never had so many women running,'' said Barbara Myers, president of the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus (CWPC), an organization that promotes progressive, pro-choice women for public office.
"Most of the women on the ballot now had never thought about running before what happened in 2016,'' Myers said. "The election of Trump just energized them. They decided they had to fight back, and the best way of doing that was running for and winning offices."
CWPC recently released its list of endorsed candidates, from the statewide races to the local level. There were 15 of them, all women.
Myers said that since 2011, the national organization has told local chapters they are not to endorse male candidates – even though there are many Democratic men running who are with the pro-choice group on the issues.
"I have no doubt that every woman in our organization supports Aftab (Pureval) against Chabot, just as much as they support Jill Schiller against Brad Wenstrup,'' Myers said. "But we can't give him a formal endorsement."
Pureval is the Democratic candidate trying to unseat long-time incumbent Steve Chabot in the 1st Congresssional District, while Schiller is taking on Republican incumbent Brad Wenstrup in the 2nd Congresssional District.
In Hamilton County, voters will find 47 candidates on their ballots. Of them, 14 will be women (three incumbents) and five will be Republicans (two incumbents).
One of the non-incumbent Democrats is Stephanie Summerow Dumas, who ran against Mt. Healthy mayor James Wolf for the Democratic nomination for Republican Chris Monzel's county commission seat.
Wolf had the backing of the Democratic Party, but nearly everyone in the party was stunned the morning after the primary election when Dumas won.
"I think the fact that I was a woman and this is a good year for women to be running had something to do with it,'' Dumas told WVXU.
Except for incumbent judges Lisa Allen and Leslie Ghiz, all of the Republican women running for office are long-shots for election.
One of them is Nancy Aichholz, a west side businesswoman who is taking on County Auditor Dusty Rhodes of Delhi Township, who has decades in public office and is, without question, the most conservative Democratic officeholder we have ever met.
Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou tried to up Aichholz's name recognition by giving her a front-and-center role to play in the recent petition drive to put an issue on the November ballot to eliminate a .02 percent increase in the county sales tax. It was passed by the two Democratic county commissioners.
There is a local Republican group called SHELeads, of which Aichholz is a member. The purpose of the organization is to groom women candidates for the future and have them learn from other GOP women who have run and won office.
The problem is this: Once they have learned how to run for office, they find out there are very few offices for them to run for. Most of them – particularly the state legislative offices – are held by entrenched incumbents, Republicans and Democrats.
And the Republican male legislators, in recent years, have been doing an end run around Ohio's term limits law by running for a state senate seat after they are term-limited out of the Ohio House. The state senators who are term-limited out do the same thing – running for and winning the term-limited House members seat.
It is a revolving door for Republican male legislators.
No wonder the GOP women can't break through.
"We have a lot of very good women candidates waiting in the wings," Triantafilou said. "We just have to wait until some of the men actually do retire."
David Niven, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, said there is no question that this will be a better year for Democratic women running for office than for Republican women.
"For a lot of Democratic women, 2016 created an imperative for them to run,'' Niven said. "With the election of Trump, they felt an obligation to get out and take a chance on running."
"It used to be that a lot of women wondered if there was a place for them as candidates,'' Niven said. "Trump settled that question. There is a place for them."