Political playing field is askew in Pennsylvania

    Political expert says women are far outnumbered by men in campaigns and in elected office.

    This election, the Republican and Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania governor, Senate and plenty of other offices have one thing in common: they’re men.

    Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, says Pennsylvania is in the bottom 10 states as far women members in the Legislature.

    There are only “two women in the Congressional delegation and no women holding statewide elected executive positions in the state. There are five of those positions in Pennsylvania and currently none of them are women,” says Walsh.

    Walsh says women in Pennsylvania who are trying to get into politics face one big obstacle — in the state’s strong party systems, the leadership has a lot of control over who runs, and who gets support.

    “Usually the party leadership is male, the party leadership is looking to people that look like themselves when they’re thinking about who should run for office and who they’re grooming and who they’re supporting,” says Walsh. “And women really just aren’t on their radar screen.”

    Walsh says there is hope for Pennsylvania if what has happened in New Jersey is any indication of the future. Training programs in the Garden State have helped boost the number of women in politics there.

    Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco wants the parties to do more.

    “They should have a training ground to train women to run for political office. And not just look at us as envelope-stuffers…I would like to see more support and promotion by the parties to support women when they do decide to run,” says Tasco. “They should be endorsed, they should be given the same financial support that is given to the male counterparts.”

    Tasco says women need to be more engaged in the parties at the local level where they can demonstrate they have the ability to run.

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