Another Woman for Governor 

A look at women in the political arena in Indiana

click to enlarge Glenda Ritz, the second woman to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction, was sworn into office January 19, 2013. - THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Glenda Ritz, the second woman to serve as Superintendent of Public Instruction, was sworn into office January 19, 2013.

Last Wednesday Glenda Ritz announced her candidacy for governor.

It wasn't the planned announcement tour that came the following day beginning at Ben Davis High School here in Indianapolis and continuing across the state.

Her announcement unexpectedly came in the form of a banner at the top of her welcome letter to Indy Pride. The letterhead distinctly stated "Ritz for Governor 2016."

Ritz is currently the Democratic superintendent of public instruction for Indiana, who beat out incumbent Tony Bennett in 2012. Last week she joined Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, as the second woman and Democrat to announce her candidacy for governor.

2016 looks like it will be year of the Democratic woman with two women running for Indiana governor and Hillary Clinton running for president.

Even more exciting is that nationally women have turned out to the polls in higher numbers for at least the last 4 major election cycles according to The Center for American Women and Politics.

So why haven't there been more women in office?

There are 50 seats in the Indiana Senate and only 10 of those belong to women. The numbers for the House are more depressing, with women holding only 21 of the 100 seats. There are two women currently representing Indiana in the U.S. Congress – Jackie Walorski in the 2nd District and Susan Brooks in the 5th District.

So why then don't women, who go to the polls more than men, vote for someone who in theory would have their best interests at heart? (Not that men don't, but at least when you vote a fellow woman into office you know she understands where you're coming from.)

Dr. Laura Albright, a professor at University of Indianapolis, says that American voters vote based not just on identity. "We know that white people have a tendency to vote for other white people and African Americans tend to vote for other African Americans, but there are fewer options for women picking something beyond gender identity," says Albright.

Ritz's road to governor will definitely be tough.

Dr. Albright says, "Since this is a Republican state [Ritz] is going to have to negotiate her partisanship and reach out to moderate and independents and find a way to bring them into the Democratic fold."

The same holds true for Karen Tallian who also has an uphill climb for statewide name recognition, something that Ritz already has.

One might think that the Democratic Party, being the party of the marginalized and a strong advocate for women's rights, would have some sort of local program to push women to the political forefront. But when it comes to Indiana, the Republicans are the ones doing the progressive work.

In 1990, then U.S. Senator Richard Lugar put together The Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series in order to encourage women to get into careers in politics and community service. Over the last 25 years the series has graduated 421 women with notable alumni including former Indiana Secretary of State Sue Ann Gilroy, former State Auditor Connie Nass, and former Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman to name a few.

So if Republicans, the party of Hobby Lobby supporters and equal pay adversaries, can support an initiative to put more women into political office, where are Indiana's Democratic women?

There is the Indiana Federation for Democratic Women, however it is still in its infancy in terms of organization and ability to bring forth female candidates through training and advocacy like the Lugar series. And as Albright has pointed out before, it takes seven times for a woman to be asked or told she should run for office before the message is even remotely taken seriously.

• Indiana has never had a woman serve as governor.

• Indiana has never had a woman serve in the U.S. Senate.

• Since 2003, Indiana has had three women serve as lieutenant governor.

• Since 1933, Indiana has had seven women serve in the U.S. Congress.


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Taylor Hurt

Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns

Amber Stearns was born, raised, and educated right here in Indianapolis. She holds a B.S. in Communications from the University of Indianapolis (1995). Following a 20-year career in radio news in Indiana, Amber joined NUVO as News Editor in 2014.

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