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Women Face Money Crunch on Road to Political Office

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Friday, July 9, 2021   

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Women have voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1984, but a new study shows when they run for a statewide executive office, money is harder to come by.

Kira Sanbonmatsu, senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and the report's co-author, said women running in statewide executive races, excluding governor and lieutenant governor, face greater campaign finance challenges than men.

She explained from both a donor and recipient perspective, there are significant discrepancies between men and women.

"We hear so much about how well women are doing as voters; women have outvoted men for many years," Sanbonmatsu observed. "I don't know that people realize that women are not at the same rate as 'givers,' as men."

Sanbonmatsu noted part of the lack of campaign contributions may be some statewide elections are below the radar for women, with only 31% of women holding statewide executive office nationwide.

She added it is likely because women often don't earn as much as men, they can't afford to contribute more.

New Mexico's Deb Haaland, now the U.S. Interior Secretary, was one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress in 2018.

Sanbonmatsu argued it's important to recognize "firsts" for women, and also acknowledge how much harder the road might have been for them.

"Certainly with Haaland in power, certainly with Vice President Kamala Harris, this is a new landscape for women and politics, but we're not at parity," Sanbonmatsu acknowledged.

Sanbonmatsu added women remain underrepresented as officeholders for such positions as attorneys general, state treasurers, and secretaries of state, and it's especially true of Asian American, Black, Latina and Native American women.

"Women of color, compared to white women, wield fewer personal resources, and they are less likely as candidates to enter these statewide races," Sanbonmatsu outlined. "So we really need to marshal support for them if we're going to see those numbers go up."

She added women are less likely to self-fund their campaigns and more likely to fundraise in small-dollar amounts, meaning they may face additional burdens in the fundraising process.


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