By Allison Stevens
Washington Bureau Chief
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Female hopefuls are already throwing their hats into the ring for elections in 2009 and 2010, vying for vacated seats and challenging incumbents. Political observers say the interest from women could help boost their numbers in Congress.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WOMENSENEWS)--Fresh off the 2008 campaign trail, female politicians are setting their sights on their next set of opportunities to inch closer to gender equality in government.
In Illinois, Republican Rosanna Pulido will represent her party in an April 7 contest to replace Rahm Emmanuel, who left his seat to serve as President Obama's chief of staff. It is an uphill fight for Pulido, a conservative Republican running in a Democratic stronghold in Chicago.
And in California, two women--Democrat Judy Chu and Republican Teresa Hernandez--are vying for the right to replace former Rep. Hilda Solis, now secretary of labor in the Obama administration. The primary will be held on May 19 and the special election will be held on July 14.
Meanwhile, prominent women are already being eyed as top candidates in 2010.
EMILY's List, a leading political action committee in Washington, D.C., that backs pro-choice Democratic women, has already endorsed Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in her bid for the state's open Senate seat. Carnahan's father, Mel, won the seat posthumously in 2000, and her mother, Jean, was subsequently appointed to serve out his term. She lost a bid for a full term in 2002 to former Sen. Jim Talent, who lost in 2008 to Claire McCaskill. If she wins, Missouri would become the fourth state with two female senators.
"Robin Carnahan has a lengthy and impressive record of public service, and has experience running for--and winning--statewide office," EMILY's List president Ellen Malcolm said in a statement.
In California, former eBay chief Meg Whitman--a pro-choice Republican--has declared her candidacy for the state's gubernatorial office.
And if Congress enacts legislation enfranchising residents of the District of Columbia, their long-standing non-voting representative--Eleanor Holmes Norton--would be considered a favorite for the seat in forthcoming elections. But that's still an uncertain prospect.
Women currently hold 73 seats in the House, or 17 percent of the chamber, and 17 seats in the Senate, or 17 percent of that body. Those numbers are up slightly from 2006, when women held 16 seats in the Senate and 72 seats in the House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, a research organization at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick.
Women have already seen some slippage as female lawmakers have left the legislative body to join the Obama administration. Losses include Solis and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was replaced by former Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from upstate New York. Two men were nominated to run for her now-vacant House seat in a special election to be held on March 31.
In Kansas, former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius--named to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services--will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson. Former Arizona Gov. Democrat Janet Napolitano, now head of the Department of Homeland Security, was succeeded by a woman, Jan Brewer, a Rep