by Susan Platt – Former Candidate for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Founder EmergeVA, Former COS to then-Senator Joe Biden
While Virginia has been trending more Blue than Purple in recent years – there are few hues of pink.
I’m not saying we haven’t witnessed progress to parity. We now have three excellent Democratic women serving us in Congress. We have a woman Speaker of the House of Delegates, an African-American woman as Majority Leader, and many Democratic women in the Virginia General Assembly. That’s taken us 400 years to accomplish. So why haven’t we had a woman elected to statewide office since 1993?
In 2008, Mary Sue Terry and I started “The Farm Team” to encourage and help women become more involved in elective politics. In 2013 we merged with Emerge VA to better train women to run and win – and they have. A lot of them. It’s not a coincidence that with these victories has come more collaboration, and better policies for women and families.
So why is it when it comes to running for statewide office, women are told that it’s “not your time,” “you’re not experienced enough,” or my favorite, “if we only had one woman running for that race instead of 2 or 3 they wouldn’t split the vote.” Why, in 2021, do men still tell us what women should think? And, why does anyone still listen? There are eight men running for the Democratic nomination for 3 statewide offices. It is doubtful that any were lectured about their experience or their timing. The five Democratic women still had to run this gauntlet and then had the nerve not to listen.
We are all familiar with the inherent biases women deal with every day when running for elective office. The most common one I hear is the women are not experienced enough.
Every woman running in the statewide Democratic Primary this year has more elective experience than two of the previously elected five Governors at the time they were elected. When I ran for Lt. Governor in 2017, I had been a Chief of Staff to a Member of Congress and to the next President of the United States, and had managed several successful statewide campaigns. This was more experience than my primary opponents had, yet I was told that I wasn’t experienced enough. Let that sink in for a moment. We have women running that have been elected – in some cases multiple times over – to the House of Delegates, Virginia State Senate and City Council, and yet they are derided as not having enough experience.
There are political leaders and operatives who would – and have – argued that it would be easier to embrace a woman candidate if there was just one running. Of course, we’ve seen a few examples when there was just one woman running, and these same leaders and operatives simply used another excuse to rally behind male candidates. The fact is that women make up the majority of voters in the Democratic Party; according to the 2020 exit poll, women accounted for 57 percent of voters who cast their ballot for Joe Biden. We all know the new organizations that have sprung up since 2016 are run by women. But why do so many support men over women or are afraid to endorse the woman because of political retribution?
This all contributes to my frustration with the inherent biases that presume that a man is more qualified, more likeable, and more attractive, yet isn’t too aggressive and smiles enough. There is a lot of lip service paid to supporting women…just not the women running in a specific election. I’m tired of hearing Democratic leaders, including some women say, “Of course we support women candidates, just not that woman!”
It’s time more women – and the men who truly support them – do more than talk the talk – it’s time to walk the walk.
The late Governor Ann Richards’ quote on this topic is legendary: “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did she just did it backwards and in high heels.”
The truth is that Virginia has had 41 Lieutenant Governors — six Johns, four James, two Roberts and one L. Douglas, don’t you think it’s time for an Andria, Elizabeth or Hala?
DID YOU KNOW VIRGINIA HAS THE WORST RECORD OF ELECTING WOMEN IN THE COUNTRY?
In a year where we have the first woman — a woman of color at that — as Vice President of the United States, don’t you think it’s time we stop skirting the issue and finally make history in Virginia and elect a woman as Governor and/or Lieutenant Governor?