Democrats Launch Campaign For More Women In Office

Sep 23, 2013

Former Governor Madeleine Kunin with Rep. Sarah Buxton (D - Royalton/Tunbridge).
Credit Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Former Governor Madeleine Kunin doesn't want to be known as the only female governor in Vermont's history. She announced Monday that the state is joining 13 others in Emerge America, a San Francisco-based 501c(4) non-profit seeking to get more women Democrats into elected office.

"There's room on the statehouse walls for another portrait," Kunin said, referencing the tradition of mounting a portrait of each governor in the statehouse. She hopes another woman's portrait will join her's there.

Kunin was joined by state representatives Sarah Buxton (D - Royalton-Tunbridge), Jill Krowinski (D - Burlington) and Kesha Ram (D - Burlington) for the announcement. In the House of Representatives, men outnumber women 86-63, according to the Office of Legislative Council. Vermont's Senate has a larger gender discrepancy with only nine women and 21 men.

Not present at the announcement was Cassandra Gekas, who ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor against incumbent Republican Phil Scott in 2012. Gekas lost that race by 47,000 votes.

Kunin said she wasn't sure why Gekas wasn't present. "I'm sure she was invited," Kunin said, adding that Gekas' unsuccessful campaign proved exactly why Vermont need Emerge.

"She'd never run for office before and I think it's difficult in Vermont to jump to statewide elections without having served in office before," Kunin said. "But also, I think she found it hard to maneuver the campaign, so - training like this - it sort of underscores how important that is."

Democrats aren't alone in making a conscious effort to get women into elected office. The Progressive Party's bylaws require local party committees to be made up of at least 50 percent women.

"In the progressive party, we have long made an effort to get as many women involved as possible," said Robert Millar, the party's executive director in Vermont.

Four of the party's five state representatives are women, he said.

Millar said the Progressives also just formed an Elections Committee tasked with recruiting more candidates to run for office. The committee is chaired by former Burlington City Councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, who Millar said is making an effort to recruit women.

Deborah Bucknam, acting director of the Vermont Republican Party, was not immediately available for comment. Bucknam is serving as director of the party during elected chairman Jack Lindley's hospitalization, which the party announced today.