34 Percent Isn’t Parity

A report by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics lists Colorado as 5th in the nation for the number of women in statewide elected office in 2007.

However, other data foretells a potentially much more disturbing trend for women’s political futures in Colorado.While women are 49.5 percent of the state’s population, they make up a mere 34 percent of the state legislature. Yet, the states that rank higher have quite similar male to female ratios of lawmakers:

Colorado’s ranking is up three places over last year, largely due to the elections of Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, and first year lawmakers Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), and Reps. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), Marsha Looper (R-Calhan), Sara Gagliardi (D-Arvada), Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield), and Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) who won seats previously held by men. The state has placed as high as second in the nation several times since 1975 when this data was first collected.

More disconcerting are the dearth of women elected officials at the local level.

There are just three women mayors leading large to mid-size Colorado cities with populations over 30,000 – Julie Pirnack in Longmont, Olga Wolosyn in Englewood, and Kathleen Novak in Northglenn.

In Fort Collins, Lisa Poppaw’s narrow victory in November for a city council seat averted what could have been an all-male assembly for the first time in 35 years.

The apparent purge of moderate women from the ranks of the Colorado GOP, following the retirement of Sen. Norma Anderson who long served as a mentor to female lawmakers, has also been well-documented.

Some bright spots are appearing on the horizon.

The local coordinator of The White House Project has gotten into the act. Faith Winter threw her hat into the ring for a Westminster City Council race last month.

Pam Bennett, of Aurora, was recently featured in an MSNBC story for her ground-breaking candidacy as the only transgendered woman running for city council.

And Colorado Department of Education board member Evie Hudack recently announced her intentions to run for state Senate District 19. which will be vacated by the term-limited Sue Windels.

While those are definitely encouraging signs, we still have a long way to go, baby.

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Wendy Norris

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