At The Hub, we were excited to see the appointment of Senator Cline because she has doubled the representation of women in the West Virginia Senate – from 1 to 2.
The new Senator has already made clear her interest in increasing the representation of women in the Legislature.
Following her appointment, local journalist Pam Pritt wrote a great feature on Senator Cline for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
“We need to have more women to run for office,” Cline said. “I would love to be a spokesperson to have more women to be in politics.”
We couldn’t agree more.
West Virginia ranks 45th out of 50 states for percentage of women in our state legislature (at 14.9%). Even with Senator Cline’s appointment, we currently have less women in the Legislature than there were in 1984, and we have not had this few women senators since 1985.
Not to mention that we have never had a female governor, and only two of our state’s largest cities have a female mayor (Morgantown and Clarksburg).
And things are not getting much better.
The number of women in the West Virginia House of Delegates fell after the 2014 election – from 21 to 18.
We did elect our first female U.S. Senator, Shelly Moore Capito, a major step forward in equal representation. But all our Congressional Representatives remain men, and the vast majority of elected statewide executive offices are held by men (5 out of 6).
If you look at the history of women in the WV Senate (and there’s a great chronology that was put together by the Legislature’s Office of Reference & Information in 2009), you can see that – at least in terms of the representation of women in the House – our state hasn’t fallen back so much as failed to progress. We’ve basically been stuck at 15 – 20 percent women representatives in the House of Delegates since 1980.
But the state Senate is a different story. There are only 34 senators, so having a group of five or more women creates at least the start of a caucus block. The most women senators our state has ever had was in 1990 when there were 7 women in the Senate. It’s been in decline ever since.
Interestingly enough, Senator Donna Boley has single-handedly kept the Senate from being all male at various points in her career (she was first elected to the Senate in 1986, after being appointed to fill a vacancy in 1985 – 31 years ago!)
We’re on the same page with newly-appointed Senator Cline: more women need to run for office to better represent the priorities and perspectives of half of West Virginia’s population.
That’s why The Hub teamed up this year with the Our Children, Our Future Campaign to coordinate candidate trainings across the state.
Reaching more than 100 people who were interested in one day running for office, these trainings were the first step in giving resources to West Virginians to help them learn the ins and outs of political campaigning.
And if you’re interested in running for office, you still have two days left to file! Get in touch with the Secretary of State’s office for information on filing fees and requirements before the deadline of January 30.