Women are running in record numbers. This is what it looks like.
Donna Jackson is a staple in politics in Newark, N.J. She is known for her brazen, and often loud confrontational style that has become commonplace in council meetings and at town halls. The second-generation community activist decided to step into the realm of electoral politics with the release of a video in which she critiques local leadership, including current mayor, Ras Baraka, who is seeking a second term of Tuesday, May 8.
In Jackson-esque style, she dropped a video critiquing Newark machine politics, aiming much of her focus at Baraka, who described himself as leadership outside of the status quo. Jackson, who has advocated for residents on a number of issues from anti-violence to more jobs, is a write-in candidate for Council-at-Large.
Her slogan, “Enough is enough,” encapsulates the sentiment of hundreds of citizens, many of them women, and people of color, who have decided to take on electoral politics. Many of them have limited political experiences, but since the 2016 presidential elections, women are moving to the forefront of the democratic process.
“Across the nation and throughout New Jersey, the flood of women stepping up to run has been frontpage news,” observed Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) director Debbie Walsh. “CAWP has trained record numbers of women to run, and they’re eager to serve now,” added Walsh. “But until the powerful county party chairs on both sides of the aisle make it a priority to include more women on their tickets, our best efforts won’t alter the picture significantly.”
While women tend to run for smaller municipal positions, according to the CAWP, an institute housed at Rutgers University that fosters women leaders, currently there are a record number of women in Congress, and so far, 43 women have filed to run for governor.
All Politics are Women
In Newark, Jackson is one of a handful of women running for office in a predominant male political milieu. Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins is in a contentious battle with Ras Baraka for mayoral elections. Chaneyfield-Jenkins, a career politician, supported Baraka’s 2014 mayoral candidacy, but rescinded backing shortly into his first terms. “I was tired of the political abuses,” said Chaneyfield-Jenkins who has also said that she has been harassed anonymously since her announcement as a mayoral candidate.
Three thousand miles away, London Breed gears up for San Francisco’s mayoral elections on June 5. Breed served for six weeks as acting mayor until she was voted out by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The Board replaced her with Mark Ferrell, a venture capitalist, causing an uproar. Ferrell is also running for mayor.
According to recent polls from the San Francisco Chronicle, Breed leads as the favorite. Two more women, Jane Kim and Angela Alito, are candidates. Kim, a member of the Board, is an Asian-American who entered into electoral politics in 2004. She has been vocal about creating more Asian representation. In early April, a burglar attempted to break into her headquarters.
Down South, Nashville just elected its first Latinx on May 1. Ana Escobar, is a long-time prosecutor who won a seat as a judge in Division 3 of Nashville’s General Sessions Court. Later in the month, Carol M. Swain, a former tenured professor of law at Vanderbuilt is vying for the mayoral position.
“Nashville is moving in the wrong direction,” said Swain. “I will work to turn our city around. Our infrastructure is crumbling, schools are under-funded, and we’ve spent our emergency funds in times of plenty. Our city leadership has been absent and attentive only to the needs big businesses.”
In Georgia, Stacey Abrahams announced that she will run for the governor’s Democratic primary in May. “We are able to use women as the galvanizing force, but we also need to lift the voices of the marginalized, women of color, the LGBTQ community,” said in Abrahams in an interview with Broadly.
She continued, “We have to change the face of leadership. People need to see themselves reflected in those who lead them. How can you follow someone who doesn’t understand where you’re coming from?”
Organizations like CAWP have been holding annual training camps for women who are considering running. Since last year, a surge of women have tapped into the organization for assistance.
“Women are more likely to run for office if they’re recruited, (but) less likely to get recruited than men,” Walsh explained in an interview with Tap Into online. “This is an effort to do that recruiting and give women the tools necessary to run successful campaigns and to become more engaged in the political process.”