August 07, 2018
A newsletter to keep you informed about all things women and politics from the Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University.

Primary Season Returns! Yay!
Tennessee GOP Nominee for Senate Marsha Blackburn
After a brief lull, the primary cycle started back up in Tennessee, where U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn made history by becoming the first woman nominated by the Republican Party of Tennessee for the U.S. Senate, and the first woman nominated for  the Senate from Tennessee altogether in 40 years. Tennessee has never sent a woman to the upper chamber of Congress. Hopes for another historical first in the Volunteer State were dashed when U.S. Representative Diane Black came up short in the gubernatorial primary. Tennessee has never nominated a woman to a major-party ticket for governor, and it will remain one of 22 states nationwide to never have a woman governor. For full analysis of the Tennessee primary, see CAWP scholar Kelly Dittmar's analysis at Gender Watch 2018, and to study up on what to expect from tonight's primaries, read GW2018's outlooks for Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington.
Join Gender Watch 2018 for the #90toMT Twitter Chat
This Wednesday, August 8th, marks 90 days until the midterm elections, and Gender Watch 2018 will host a Twitter chat to discuss gender and politics in 2018 and answer questions from twitterers. CAWP and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation will be joined by partner organizations She Should Run, New American Leaders, Running Start, Ignite National, Higher Heights for America, and Represent Women. The chat kicks off at 3pm ET, so follow the hashtag #90toMT to participate!
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Debbie Walsh Appears at Newseum Panel 
Debbie Walsh giving an update on election 2018
CAWP Director Debbie Walsh appeared at the panel discussion hosted by the Newseum in Washington, D.C.: "The Surge: Women Candidates in 2018". Walsh gave a state-of-the-race report on the 2018 cycle and also offered ways to gauge success this year when expectations and political realities may come clashing. She prefaced her presentation by discussing the motivations behind this record-breaking year, saying that women realized that "if they wanted to see elected officials and they wanted to see candidates that looked like them, that sounded like them, and that cared about the issues that they care about, they needed to actually be that candidate, they needed to be that elected official." To see the full panel, watch it via YouTube here.
Storming the Big Town: CAWP Takes NCSL
CAWP's NCSL Panelists
Last week, CAWP team members headed to the National Conference of State Legislatures Legislative Summit and hosted a well-attended panel, "Women's Leadership and Future Generations", featuring California State Senator Holly J. Mitchell, Utah House Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck, and South Carolina State Senator Katrina Shealy. The panel was sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, who were represented at the event by Executive Director for External Affairs Mini Timmaraju. Following an election 2018 update from Debbie Walsh, CAWP Associate Director Jean Sinzdak introduced CAWP's Teach a Girl to Lead TM (TAG) initiative working to make women's leadership visible to school children, and panelists talked about their experience reading books like Grace for President to children in their districts, a TAG program sponsored in part by The Honorable Connie Hess and the Hess foundation. The panel also discussed other programs designed to build young women's political leadership, including the Future Legislators Mini-Camp run by the Girl Scouts of Utah. With legislators like these out there engaging with young girls and boys, the future's looking bright.
Listen to Debbie Walsh Talk Women Veterans Running for Office on WNYC's The Takeaway
By CAWP's count, at least 41 women military veterans are running for office this year, and Debbie Walsh sat down for an episode of WNYC's The Takeaway to discuss what women veterans bring to campaigns and to political office. Walsh discusses the recent history of women serving in the military and taking on greater responsibilities, including combat roles, as well as how women have traditionally been treated as candidates, and how military service can defuse many gendered attack lines on the campaign trail. "When you are a veteran, it is very hard to argue that you don't have the strength of character or leadership abilities to serve in Congress. If you've been tough enough to serve in Iraq or in Afghanistan in the military, I think, while Congress may be a tough place, they're well-equipped to handle what comes at them. It also gives them a credibility around defense issues, security issues, that women have been underestimated in the past," Walsh says on the program. To hear more, listen to the full episode here.
CAWP Legacy Fund Donor Given Innovation Award 
Legacy Fund donor Joanne Rajoppi, who, among other achievements, was the first woman county clerk in Union County, New Jersey, was honored with an innovation award by the International Association of Government Officials. The award was presented to Rajoppi in recognition of the creation of the "Union County Votes" mobile app, which was launched in 2014 and includes 20 functions that help voters get registered and get to the polls. As she says of a recent update, "One of our most important new functions is designed to encourage seventeen-year-olds to begin the process of registering to vote." Sounds like a great idea.


With the Tennessee primary involving two powerful Republican women seeking higher office, a number of news stories appeared recently that took a closer look at what a record number of women running for higher office looks like for GOP women in particular.

In the run-up to the Tennessee primary, Caitlin Huey-Burns wrote in Real Clear Politics about how Republican women make up only a small proportion of women candidates this year and the tendency of GOP women to avoid gendered frameworks in how they craft their public image. Likewise, CNBC writes in a story about Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black that, despite their potentially history-making runs, these Republican women are unlikely to campaign on "gender issues." The CNBC piece also quotes CAWP's Kelly Dittmar: "They're not strategically sitting at home and saying, 'Let's not talk about gender.' These women have been explicit in that they don't root politics in their gender."

Meanwhile, on Vox, Tara Golshan writes about the challenges that women face in the current GOP. She points out structural deficiencies like, for example, Republican avoidance of so-called "identity politics" translating to a lack of the sort of identity-based recruitment and support networks that Democratic candidates rely on. Politico also takes a look at troubles GOP women contend with, particularly this year and particularly during the Trump presidency. Any GOP politician who criticizes the president is bound to face the wrath of the Republican base, but women have a particularly fine tightrope to walk when deciding between standing up to a president who frequently lobs gendered criticisms at opponents, thereby risking alienating GOP voters, or failing to stand up to him and alienating women.

Finally, after the Tennessee primary had been decided, Roll Call published an interesting, if concerning analysis: with U.S. Representatives Black and Blackburn vacating their seats this year, it seems likely that the women's proportion of the House delegation from Tennessee will drop to zero. While at least five women advanced to the general election for House seats in Tennessee, all of them are running in districts that heavily favor their opponent.

Even though this year is a high-water mark for women running for office, Republican women only make up around one-third of the total number of women candidates. As Dittmar tells RCP, "the pink wave is really a blue wave."

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