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Women: Run for office in Washington state

From left to right: political hopeful Tammy Morales, Seattle Representative Gael Tarleton & Tacoma Representative Laurie Jinkins in the KIRO Radio studio.

Only 32 percent of Washington legislators are women. That is not a very high number, but it’s still better than the national number which is just 24 percent. In February, The Seattle Times reported that Washington state legislators are older, far less ethnically diverse and more male than the populations they represent. Which is why the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington exists. Comprised 100 percent of volunteers, the caucus works to recruit, train and elect more women into office. Every year, they hold a campaign training for women who are interested in running.

Seattle’s Tammy Morales attended a few weeks ago and learned:

“How to run a campaign, how to do fundraising, how to do messaging and how do you maintain your family relationships and prepare yourself for what it means to dive into something like this?”

The big question is: is it different running for office if you’re a woman? The answer I got from two female state representatives was a resounding yes.

“The easiest example is to be in a room with men who are running, who have kids, and women, and have only women asked how they do a work-family balance. What about their kids? A lot more personal questions. I am somebody who gave up makeup a long time ago. But when I started running, you have no idea the amount of advice I got about how I dressed, whether or not I wore makeup, my haircut,” said Tacoma’s 27th district Representative, Laurie Jinkins.

Rep. Jinkins ran for the first time in 2010, becoming the first out lesbian elected to state office. She says it can be tough to get women to run, partly because they think they can’t work, raise a family and take on public office at the same time. But also:

“I think women, generally, we have a kind of perfectionist attitude about how much we need to know. We always feel like we don’t know enough to be a policymaker in an area. Whereas men, frequently, at the age of third or fourth grade, think they know enough to be in the policy-making area. The research says that a woman has to be asked, on the average, seven times to run. I think that really means, too, that we rely a lot on other people to tell us they think we’re ready. Whereas, maybe what men do is they, in their own mind, decide if they’re ready.”

I asked Seattle Representative Gael Tarleton, of the 36th District, why we don’t hear about big sex scandals among women in politics, like we have with men.

“I think women really start from a cause. They have something they want to get done. They are absolutely relentless in going after the cause. Whereas, so many others, male dominated politics, the men don’t approach it from a cause. It’s more about: people need to run for office. Women say, I want to get something done. And then when they’ve got it done, maybe they don’t want to do it anymore. Maybe they’ve gotten it done, they say it’s someone else’s turn. But I do think, when you are focused on wanting to get something done, you don’t allow the distractions to derail you, deter you.”

Representative Jinkins has her own theory.

“I guess I’d like to have the opportunity for us to see if women are as corrupt and scandalous as men are. Part of this might actually be a function that there aren’t enough of us to have a representative sample of how women would lead if women were the majority in the Legislature.”

Back to the caucus, both representatives have been supported heavily, both while running and when they first entered office.

“So right now, somebody from the women’s Political Caucus is babysitting Tammy’s two kids so that she can be here to be part of this radio interview,” said Rep Jinkins. “That’s the kind of support that the Women’s Political Caucus gives. They’re very focused. If you’re a good candidate, if you’re prepared, if you’re doing the work to win, then there’s very little that they won’t do to help you. Whether it’s fundraising, whether it is with family, getting endorsements. The Women’s Political Caucus is really all about giving individual women the support that they need to be victorious.”

If you’re a woman interested in running for office, but you don’t know where to start, click here for more information.

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