UT women taking more interest in running for office

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Around the country more women are starting to run for public office. In Utah groups like “Real Women Run” note that they are seeing an influx of first-time candidates taking interest.

March 15th is the filing deadline for all races in the 2018 election. As of Wednesday morning, 78 woman had already filed to run for various seats around the state. Erin Jemison is the Public Policy Director for the YWCA, the group which organizes RWR.

The non-partisan group holds workshops and seminars around the state to encourage women to run for office and shows them how. Jemison said in the past many woman have felt they needed to be nearly perfect to run. Now they’re seeing a shift.

“We’re hearing a lot more if not me than who, or why not, we might as well try,” said Jemison.

Kimberly Stevens of Liberty is one of those first-time candidates. She’s running as a Republican for open seat in House District 8. She became interested once people started to ask her about it and said she did want to work toward a change in discourse.

“Maybe being a part of the change that I think is needed in politics,” said Stevens.

Stephanie Pitcher is also a first-time candidate from Salt Lake City running as a Democrat for House Seat 40. She too is happy to see the number of women running this time around.

“I think it’s really exciting,” said Pitcher. “Even in Utah we’ve had a wave of women who have filed to run for office.”

Both women are attorneys and said they’ve already been out doing the necessary signature gathering to get on the ballot.

The two hopeful candidates said clean air and education funding seem to be big topics with residents they’ve talked with so far. Both also hope to tackle issues which are important to women and families.

They admit it’s been an interesting process which has been different from others they’ve undertaken.

“It’s very different from before when you’re a lobbyist and you work specifically with the legislators, and now you’re working with the public and your constituents,” said Pitcher.

“I had no idea that it was such a big process just to get on the ballot and get elected,” said Stevens. “So it’s been interesting learning more every day.”

Organizers with RWR said often times women feel they don’t have the experience needed to run for office. They note their experiences in the community is just what’s needed to seek office.

“You can take advantage of those experiences and show that you already are a leader in your community,” said Jemison. “That’s really what we’re trying to teach them but also help realize about themselves is that they can do it and they’re ready.”

Utah Legislature currently has 21 female members, but that isn’t as high as in 2002 when there were 24. The state ranks 36th in the country for the number of women in its legislature. That’s up from 2016 when Utah was 45th.

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