Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Political Parties Note Pull of Women; Female Candidates Take More Ballot Space

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Political Parties Note Pull of Women; Female Candidates Take More Ballot Space

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Basinger, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Now more than ever, the Georgia ballot reflects the increasing presence of women in politics, with names like "Tommy" and "John" accompanied by "Deanna" and "Lois."

One piece of evidence is the record number of female candidates running for statewide office this year.

Georgia's ballot includes nine women running for six of the 11 statewide offices -- secretary of state, state attorney general, state school superintendent, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance and public service commissioner. The group includes four Democrats, four Republicans and one Libertarian.

The political hopefuls say their inclusion is important not only for society, but also for women in the future.

"When we were growing up, there were very few role models for women in politics," said Lois Cohen, 55, the Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner. "That's why this is so important. We nurture those candidates coming behind us."

It wasn't too long ago that Georgia politics were dominated by men, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

"You don't have to go back too far to find no women running statewide and almost no women legislators," he said.

Linda Schrenko became the first woman elected to a statewide office in 1994 when the Republican won the first of her two terms as state school superintendent. She went on to run an unsuccessful campaign for governor earlier this year.

Yet some candidates say the change was long overdue.

"It puts light on offices that have traditionally been held by men," said Kathy Cox, 37, this year's Republican candidate for schools superintendent. "It's made it acceptable for women to hold these offices."

Although many female voters are happy to see other women on the ballot, some say gender won't be the sole reason for their vote.

Marie Huneycutt first voted in Savannah in 1950. The 76-year-old was born only seven years after women received the right to vote in 1919 and remembers a time when women never were on the ballots.

"When the first women began to run, it was weird. But I was happy about it," she said. "However, I won't vote for someone just because they're a woman. …

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