WASHINGTON — The wild west — it brings to mind images of cowboys and showdowns. It probably does not bring images of women in elected office.
But Democrats and Republicans both say the independent, wild west mentality of Arizona voters is one reason the state elects more women than most others.
Arizona has the third-highest percentage of women in its legislature, at 34 percent, trailing Colorado and Vermont, according to data from Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.
Arizona leads the nation for female governors, with four: Rose Mofford, Jane Dee Hull, Janet Napolitano and Jan Brewer.
That is no surprise to Lisa James, who said Arizona has always been ahead of its time when it comes to women.
“We’re pioneer people,” said James, chairman of the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series, which prepares Republican women for leadership positions.
“If you were able to come out West and look at the desert and go, ‘I want to make a home here and I want to make a life here,’ you tend to be a little more forward-thinking,” James said. “So I think the wild wild west applies to also being forward-thinking in electing women in to office as well.”
Political consultant Catherine Nichols said that in Arizona the question is not about whether women can win elections, but about whether they can raise the money necessary to run a campaign.
“We have a mentality of voting for the individual even over party,” said Nichols, senior political consultant for Arizona List, which works to get pro-choice, Democratic women elected. “It’s the storyline of the person running.”
That was echoed by two women lawmakers who said that while it’s great to have other women in office, but more important that they can do the job.
“To me there are good and bad male legislators and good and bad female legislators,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale.
Lesko doesn’t think a person’s sex determines whether they are a good legislator, but she said she would like to see more Republican women leaders.
Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said that what women bring to politics is about their experiences, not their gender.
“For whatever reason that more women are getting elected in Arizona, I think it’s a good thing,” Steele said.
“I think it’s a good thing because we bring this different perspective based on our experience. Not on our gender, but based on our experience and how we are socialized,” she said.
While Arizona rates well on the state level, it has a poor record when it comes to sending women back East. The state has only sent five women to Congress, and two of them are there now: Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Flagstaff and Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix.
Marni Allen, director of Political Parity, said in an email that the obstacles to getting elected to federal office include fundraising, exposing personal lives and receiving little party support,
She also said a “governing structure in Washington that seems to be filled with ‘angry, white men,’ means many women who have been successful in politics at a more local level don’t perceive the step up as a desirable career move.”
The lack of women in Arizona’s congressional delegation is tied in part to a lack of term limits in Congress, said Kelly Dittmar, assistant research professor at the Center for American Women and Politics.
“I think that’s definitely an additional hurdle for women in trying to run for congressional office,” Dittmar said of the advantage incumbents hold.
Kim Owens, executive director at Dodie Londen, said Arizona’s history of electing women shows the open-mindedness of the voters.
“There’s no one profile of what an Arizona voter is looking for,” Owens said. “They truly do look at each candidate.
“In the races where we’ve been fortunate enough to have women elected in leadership, it’s been because the voters saw them as the best person for the job and historically, those women have been re-elected in large numbers,” she said.
Nichols brought that voter independence back to the wild west.
“We have this wild west mentality of the independent person who can make up their own mind and it doesn’t really matter if they’re Republican or Democrat, there’s a desire to have a leader that’s not going to be swayed,” Nichols said.
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Water tips to save money, help save the Earth
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon
- What you need to know about Alzheimer's disease in Arizona
- Spring clean your windows like a pro with these 8 tips
- 7 films that should have won best-picture Oscars
- New plumbing technology saves money and improves your home
- Survey shows Arizona CFOs optimistic about 2016
- How chronic pain can affect your love life
- 5 potential warning signs about your child's development