Across the country, women are headed to City Hall, while female voters turn down efforts by abortion foes to take office.
It wasn’t a midterm election year, so Election 2013 didn’t change the mostly male make-up in Washington. But female mayors in a number of U.S. cities won election or re-election Tuesday. And women voters played a starring role in at least one state’s hotly contested gubernatorial election.
In New York, three of the state’s largest cities — Albany, Rochester and Syracuse — elected women as mayor. Kathy Sheehan, a Democrat, beat Jesse Calhoun, a Republican, to become the state capital’s first new mayor in 20 years. Rochester elected its first female mayor, Democrat Lovely Warren, while Syracuse gave Stephanie Miner a second term as its Democratic mayor. (The development would have delighted Susan B. Anthony, the suffragist from Upstate New York who was arrested for voting in 1872.)
Elsewhere, Houston re-elected Mayor Annise Parker, an openly gay Democrat. In Minneapolis, where election officials are still going through ballots, Betsy Hodges has a commanding lead over Mark Andrew, both Democrats, in the mayoral race. Nan Whaley, a Democrat, won election as mayor in Dayton, Ohio.
Not all mayoral races were triumphs for women, of course. In early races in New York and Los Angeles, the nation’s most populous cities, Democrats Christine Quinn and Wendy Greuel, respectively, sought to become the first female mayors. Both were unsuccessful.
But the fact that women are making strides in state and local races is progress, says Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates. “People around the country are ready to see more women in executive positions — for mayor in 2013, for governor in 2014 and the White House in 2016,” she told USA Today earlier this year. In a statement today, she congratulated the newly elected female mayors, saying more women are needed in executive leadership seats “to make fighting for women’s rights and opportunities top priorities.”
In Virginia, women voters are widely credited for propelling Democrat Terry McAuliffe to victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in that state’s race for governor. During the contentious campaign, McAuliffe portrayed his opponent as anti-woman, focusing on Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion rights and conservative stance on women’s health issues. (Planned Parenthood ran its own campaign, Keep Ken Out, to try to prevent a Cuccinelli win.)
On Twitter, news of McAuliffe’s win was praised by many women followers. Amy Rebecca, founder of FurFreeLa.com in Los Angeles, may have best summed up the sentiment with her tweet:
— Amy Rebecca (@labellenuage) November 6, 2013
Tuesday’s results come on the heels of the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, which finds that the U.S. lags behind other countries, particularly in the area of female political empowerment. Women make up only 18.3% of Congress. Some 47 countries have had at least one female head of state over the last 50 years, while the U.S. has had none.
With luck, Tuesday’s results may have put more women in the pipeline for future leadership roles, in Congress and beyond.