Virginia’s bloody 2013 gubernatorial race featured a lot of talk about a so-called “war on women,” but comparatively little attention was paid to the traditional imbalance favoring male political candidates in the commonwealth. Now, one prominent Republican is calling attention to it.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Susan B. Stimpson, a prominent Stafford County Republican who lost a GOP nomination bid for the Lieutenant governor in 2013, declared: “Virginia is WORST in the nation in electing women to office. Everyone knows when you see a pattern there’s a reason for it.”
“The Virginia establishment on both sides wants you to believe that selecting candidates for office in Virginia is a fair process,” she continued. “But since the coin has landed ‘heads’ since 1607 in Virginia except for one time, it’s pretty safe to say it’s not random.”
Stimpson has a point. In the long history of Virginia only one woman, Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, has held statewide office. As of April, women constituted just 15 percent of the Virginia State Senate.
During the election (and in my postmortems), I argued that Stimpson might have been an asset to the Republican ticket, making it more difficult for the Democrats to play the “war on women” card. This is especially true when you consider that Stimpson would have been the first female Lt. governor in the state’s history.
Having said that, I’m skeptical of the conspiracy theory. Yes, it’s true the party’s State Central Committee can decide whether or not to hold a primary or a convention. But the notion this decision has anything to do with stopping women from competing or winning is absurd. If there are any institutional obstacles that would prevent a qualified female candidate from raising a lot of money and organized delegates to attend a convention, then I’m not aware of them.
Virginia Republicans might well have made a mistake by passing over Stimpson, but her insinuation that the game is somehow rigged by the establishment sounds like sour grapes.
Read Stimpson’s full post here:
“Virginia is WORST in the nation in electing women to office. Everyone knows when you see a pattern there’s a reason for it. For example, if I flip a coin 20 times and I get ‘heads’ 20 times, I don’t need someone to tell me it’s a 2 headed coin. It becomes obvious. And it’s a problem for both the Republicans and the Democrats. The Virginia establishment on both sides wants you to believe that selecting candidates for office in Virginia is a fair process. But since the coin has landed “heads” since 1607 in Virginia except for one time, it’s pretty safe to say it’s not random.”
UPDATE: Stimpson and I emailed back and forth a bit about her Facebook post. Here’s an excerpt that might help to clarify her thinking on the subject — and why she decided to speak out:
“If I can encourage more women to run for office by talking about this problem and get our party to be more aware that we aren’t helping women get to the general ballot, then that’s good. I don’t have enough facts or data to prove the ‘why’ we are the worst in the nation at electing women, I can only point out that it is happening. Clearly there is something within the established process causing it. I don’t think it’s because of primaries or conventions because both methods of nomination are producing the same results for both parties.
“‘Conspiracy’ means I think it’s a secret plan and I certainly don’t have any evidence to prove that!
“Could it be that out of all 50 states Virginia has the least number of women interested in running for office? It’s possible but not likely. Could it be that the money in politics goes toward male candidates? Possibly. Could it be subconsciously among the established leaders that they gravitate toward male candidates? I just don’t know the exact why. I have anecdotal evidence of my own which the data in the study confirms but that’s really all I have as to the proof of ‘why’ it’s happening.”