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2012 Archives

Where are the women? The 20 best (and worst) Congressional districts for female candidates


The following ran on the June 12, 2012, edition of the She The People Washington Post blog. Political Scientist Dennis Simon provided expertise for this story.

June 18, 2012

By Melinda Henneberger

On Nancy Pelosi’s 25th anniversary in Congress, I met with the authors of a new book that explains why so few female colleagues have joined her in all that time. Their findings are nothing to celebrate.
There are many reasons more women don’t run, including that they’re still less likely to come forward unless asked — and are less likely to be asked. They’re more put off by the possible nastiness and by the certain loss of privacy. What I did not know, though, is that incumbency doesn’t protect women in quite the same way it does men, according to “Women & Congressional Elections: A Century of Change,’’ by Barbara Palmer, of Baldwin-Wallace College and Dennis Simon of Southern Methodist University.

Even after they’re elected to Congress, in other words, women continue to have more competition in both primary and general elections than their male counterparts do, and have to fight harder and raise more money to stay in office. Consciously or not, they’re perceived as more vulnerable, regardless of their margin of victory, say the authors, who’ve spent 14 years researching some 40,000 candidates....