Midterm Mayhem | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly

October 31, 2018 News » Cover Story

Midterm Mayhem 

PLUS: Prop 2 madness, awful political ads, an ode to Orrin and more!

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Women on Ballot - CARRIE COX
  • Carrie Cox
  • Women on Ballot

Go Women Go
Meet the women destroying the Beehive patriarchy one run at a time.
By Ray Howze

You've probably heard it before: Utah is a male-dominated state; the patriarchy makes the big decisions.

What about the women?

Well, if you're voting Nov. 6, you might find the answer. Utah voters' ballots are replete with female candidates for the midterm election this year, and it's not exactly new news. Names like Jenny Wilson (running against Mitt Romney), Shireen Ghorbani (running against Rep. Chris Stewart), and Rep. Mia Love (running against Ben McAdams) likely are familiar if you've been around town for awhile. They're just a few of the growing number of female candidates running for public office.

In races involving Salt Lake City and county, more than 40 women are running for some type of office, from Congress all the way down at the county council. If you include school board races, that number is even higher. On the state level, women who filed for House seats increased from 50 to 67 from 2016 to 2018 and doubled from nine to 18 for the Senate.

Three weeks before the midterm, Womenpreneurs, a local female leadership group, gathered nine women candidates to speak to small groups of voters.

Rose Maizner, co-founder, says that while her group's goal is not entirely politically motivated, she understands the need for representation.

"We don't focus specifically to train women to be politically engaged," Rose says. "But we also know it's a hell of a lot harder to access business and leadership positions if we don't have policies that have been crafted to support, protect and empower women in leadership.

"We also know that for those policies to be crafted, we need a seat at the table."

The number of seats at the table has been growing for women in Utah politics since 1971, according to a 2017 study by Utah Valley University's Utah Women & Leadership Project. In 1971, 8.2 percent of state legislators were women. Now, that number has risen to 19.2 percent and includes 12 Democrats and 8 Republicans. The number of women in the Legislature actually was highest in 2001, at 22.1 percent, with 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans.

Erin Jemison, director of public policy at the Utah YWCA chapter, which operates Real Women Run, foresees more women in political office. Since Real Women Run started in 2011, two-thirds of its candidates have won, she says.

Three counties in the Beehive State—Davis, Utah and Washington—have all-male representation in their county-level elected offices. Despite the high number of men, Jemison and Maizner both said their goal isn't just to elect women, but to evaluate all candidates' positions on public policy, not gender.

"We're not about voting for every woman candidate over every male candidate," Jemison says. "But we are about decreasing barriers and trying to make sure our communities are represented as effectively as possible—we know that when women have roles at the table, different issues get talked about, more collaboration happens and more work gets done."

Later that night, when Wilson addressed the Womenpreneurs' crowd, she acknowledged the elephant in the room.

"I am the woman running against Mitt Romney," she said to a few cheers. "That has not always been my identity, but I'm happy to lose it one way or the other in two weeks."

The race is a long shot for the Salt Lake County councilwoman, according to numerous polls, but she and other candidates say they don't let that deter them from running.

Stephanie Pitcher, a Democrat running in House District 40, which encompasses parts of Millcreek, Holladay and Sugar House, says while she is "cognizant we need more women" in office, she wants people to see that she's the "better candidate" because of her qualifications and experience. Pitcher, running against Republican Peter Kraus, is currently a deputy district attorney who previously worked as an associate city prosecutor in Salt Lake City.

"I prefer to be recognized for my merits, but I see the frustration as well, because seeing the type of policies coming out of a male-dominated Legislature ... our policies do reflect that to some extent," Pitcher tells City Weekly. "If more women are there, we would see more focus on child care and education issues and parental leave."

And while it might look like man vs. woman on your ballot, the Womenpreneurs hope that idea changes, if it hasn't already.

"If we can talk honestly and [be] open about it, we can solve it," Maizner concludes. "We don't want it to be us vs. them."

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