I recently wrote a weVENTURE EDGE column on the importance of women being engaged in the political process. In that, I noted that women remain underrepresented in percentage of campaign donations, in the professional lobbying corps, and at all levels of elected office.
Since that column ran, I have been asked, “How are we doing here in Brevard?”
This is a great question, and I am pleased to share that here in Brevard, we actually have some amazing women serving in elected office, and many more who have filed to run this cycle.
Three of the five current constitutional officers in our county are women. Property Appraiser Dana Blickley (R), Tax Collector Lisa Cullen (R) and Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott (R) hold countywide elected office and are doing such a good job, no one filed to run against them this year.
Two of the five current school board members are women, and there are four female candidates running in the two open seats this year. Darcey Addo and Tina Descovich in District 3 and Dana DeSantis and Incumbent Karen Henderson in District 4. Both of these will be hotly contested races, with two other candidates in each. Because the School Board is non-partisan, the top two voter getters in the August Primary will move on to the November general election, unless one candidate wins 51% of the vote outright in August.
We also have women filed to run in three of the six legislative seats in our county delegation – Dorothy Hukill (R) for State Senate District 14, Debbie Mayfield (R) and Amy Tidd (D) in State Senate District 17, and Monique Miller (R) in House District 52.
Senator Hukill has been a leader in the Florida Legislature, serving in the State House from 2004-2012, and in the State Senate since 2012. Because of redistricting, this year will be the first time her district has included part of Brevard County, but I for one am excited to have her as part of our delegation. She is an amazingly effective legislator and will be a strong advocate for Brevard.
There are also women running for all three of the open Brevard County Commission seats, and the group I work for, Business Voice Political Committee, has endorsed Rita Pritchett (R) in District 1, Andrea Young (R) in District 3 and Kristine Isnardi (R) in District 5. All three of these dynamic women have served their local communities at the city council level, in Titusville, West Melbourne and Palm Bay respectively.
With so many women filed to run in larger county and state districts, I was surprised when my research showed that at the local level women are still extremely underrepresented. Of the over 90 elected officials serving in our 16 municipalities in Brevard, only 24% are women. So far, 15 women have filed to run at the city level this year. So perhaps it is here we see the real opportunity to grow in local political diversity. I would encourage anyone who is passionate for protecting our community to consider getting involved at the local government level today. It might be too late to run in 2016, but it is a great time to get engaged and set the stage for a campaign in 2017, 2018 or beyond.
Increasing the number of women experienced in local office increases the pool of quality candidates for higher office later on. This is a first necessary step if we ever want a hope of having the interests of women’s health, education, welfare and businesses adequately represented at the federal level.
At the end of the day, it is not about supporting female candidates because they are women. What I hope to highlight here is simply that we do have many very qualified, tenacious and eager women stepping up to the plate to serve our local community. I encourage everyone to get to know them, and all the candidates running, between now and Election Day.
And if they knock on your door, asking for your vote, be sure to thank them for running. After all, encouraging women to run for office is the first, most important step in increasing our representation on issues of importance both locally and nationwide.
*52.5% of Brevard county registered voters are female
Kathryn Rudloff is the executive director for Business Voice Political Committee, an organization that engages businesses from across Brevard County and the Central Florida Region to provide a cohesive voice in political advocacy at the State, regional and local levels. Business Voice is operated on a non-partisan basis to promote pro-business candidates and a pro-business legislative agenda.