Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Where Are the Women in Elected Office, Texas?

Women have come to the forefront in American life, now with numbers surpassing men in measurable areas. The fact that women now earn more college degrees and sometimes more money than men do is something that has been apparent for some time.  It was bound to happen.

Women are outpacing men in earning college degrees:

The facts are plain, if puzzling: Not only do women enter college at higher rates than men, but they're less likely to drop out once they get there. Female grads now account for about 60% of U.S. bachelor's degree holders.

Women are frequently earning more money than their spouse or the sole breadwinner in the household.

A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11% in 1960.These “breadwinner moms” are made up of two very different groups: 5.1 million (37%) are married mothers who have a higher income than their husbands, and 8.6 million (63%) are single mothers. 
Women now also outpace men in going to the polls to vote.  Did you know that?  Women make up 54% - 56% of American voters to date.  So, here is my question - where are the women in Texas state government?  Why is the elected official roll call still so heavily dominated by men?

This question has been around for a while, true, but it was brought home again as Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced her retirement. A champion of transparency in government, she is an award winning public official. As she begins to transition to her next stage in life, Combs is receiving kudos from watchdog organizations, too. She has been in elected office for 20 years.

I have to say, I'm supportive of an elected official stepping down after 20 years of service.  I think many of today's governance problems originate with 'career' politicians. Did our Founding Fathers support a career in politics? No, they did not. Something is lost when both men and women stay beyond truly productive years as servants of the people.

As Combs retires, I was not alone in reflecting upon the number of women in local and Texas state politics, not to mention national politics, as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is no longer serving Texas in D.C.  For Republicans, the numbers are quite sparse. 

As pointed out in this timely piece, Debra Medina is the only woman who has declared her intention to run for a statewide office in the upcoming primaries. Why is that?  The men are falling all over themselves to declare candidacy for the top spots.  With the exception of the race for Land Commissioner, for which there is only one candidate to date - George P. Bush - all of the state leadership offices have multiple male choices.

Republican women have done some legendary work for the people of Texas.  Under the leadership of Kay Bailey Hutchison, when she was State Comptroller, the state income tax was eliminated.  In the case of Susan Combs, her legacy is that of a trailblazer in transparency. Both came up through the good ole boys network in politics and flourished.  Republican women are indebted to them.

There are 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives - 95 Republican and 55 Democrats. I count 15 Republican women.  There are 31 Texas State Senators. There are 19 Republicans - 4 of which are women.

Why are women lagging so far behind in elected office in Texas?  We know that Republican women club members do a majority of the grassroots work in primaries and general elections in Texas.  More women have to be nurtured and recruited to run for office.  This will take more than just the women currently holding office, as their number is not large.

Here is the statement Governor Perry released upon the announcement from Combs:

"Susan Combs has played a key role in cultivating the strength of the Texas economy, and has been a trusted and capable steward of the public accounts for many years. A major proponent of openness in government, she leaves behind a legacy of transparency, and a state that's more responsive, more accessible and more accountable to the public."
Governor Rick Perry May 29, 2013

No comments: