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Wyoming best, South worst for women candidates, study finds

ElectionsFeminismPoliticsU.S. SenateLiz Cheney

Think of Wyoming and what comes to mind? Cowboys? Yellowstone Park? Thwarted dynastic ambitions?

The number-crunchers at the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics website analyzed more than 5,000 congressional elections over the last 25 years to determine which states had the best record sending women to the U.S. House of Representatives.

It turns out Wyoming, hardly renowned as a bastion of political progressivism, leads the country on a percentage basis--though it may have something to do with the state containing just a single congressional seat. (Dick Cheney's daughter, Liz Cheney, for the record, was trying to win election to the U.S. Senate in her dad’s home state before abandoning her campaign in January.)

Wyoming has elected a woman to its at-large House seat in each of the last 10 elections, and 10 of 13 contests since 1989, according to the Smart Politics study. That works out to 76.9% of the time, well ahead of South Dakota, which has elected women to its at-large seat in six consecutive contests and six of 13 races during the span, or 46.2% of the time.

Wyoming has historically been a friendly place for women candidates and causes. Nellie Tayloe Ross became the nation’s first female governor in 1925 when she was elected to finish her late husband’s term. The state also granted women the right to vote well ahead of the rest of the country.

“It may be a case of success breeding success,” said James King, who teaches political science at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. “In some places to have a woman candidate is considered a novelty. Not here.”

Eric J. Ostermeier, the political scientist behind the Smart Politics site, said he analyzed House races, rather than contests for governor and U.S. Senate, because they occurred more often and offered a broader research base.

His findings were often surprising. Democratic-leaning California, which was responsible for nearly a quarter of the 736 seats won by women in the 25-year period, earned an A- in Ostermeier’s accounting. But other parts of the Democratic presidential base were far less friendly. Oregon earned a B-; Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota received Cs; Pennsylvania and Massachusetts each got a D-, and New Jersey got an F.

Generally speaking, the South was the least hospitable place for female congressional candidates. North Carolina, which scored best in the region with a grade of C+, elected women in 22 of 151 contests, or 14.6% of the time.

 

Percentage of U.S. House Seats Won by Women by State, 1989-2014

Rank

State

Grade

# Won

# Contests

% Won

1

Wyoming

A+

10

13

76.9

2

South Dakota

A

6

13

46.2

3

Hawaii

A

12

28

42.9

4

Connecticut

A

25

66

37.9

5

Nevada

A

12

32

37.5

6

California

A-

179

640

28.0

7

Missouri

B+

23

109

21.1

8

Maine

B+

5

24

20.8

9

Colorado

B+

16

78

20.5

9

New York

B+

76

371

20.5

11

Florida

B+

58

290

20.0

12

West Virginia

B

7

37

18.9

13

New Mexico

B

7

38

18.4

14

Washington

B

20

109

18.3

15

Oregon

B-

11

62

17.7

16

Ohio

B-

39

226

17.3

17

New Hampshire

B-

4

24

16.7

18

North Carolina

C+

22

151

14.6

19

Kansas

C+

7

49

14.3

20

Maryland

C+

13

98

13.3

21

Idaho

C+

3

24

12.5

22

Wisconsin

C

12

103

11.7

23

Michigan

C

22

189

11.6

24

Minnesota

C

11

96

11.5

25

Illinois

C

25

239

10.5

26

Indiana

C-

11

117

9.4

27

Tennessee

C-

10

108

9.3

28

Texas

C-

31

379

8.2

29

Arizona

C-

7

86

8.1

30

Kentucky

D+

5

76

6.6

31

Utah

D

2

37

5.4

32

Virginia

D

7

134

5.2

33

Georgia

D-

7

147

4.8

34

Alabama

D-

4

86

4.7

35

Arkansas

D-

2

49

4.1

35

Pennsylvania

D-

10

245

4.1

37

Massachusetts

D-

5

124

4.0

38

New Jersey

F

6

159

3.8

39

Oklahoma

F

2

68

2.9

40

South Carolina

F

1

75

1.3

41

Alaska

F

0

12

0.0

41

Delaware

F

0

12

0.0

41

North Dakota

F

0

12

0.0

41

Vermont

F

0

12

0.0

41

Montana

F

0

13

0.0

41

Rhode Island

F

0

24

0.0

41

Nebraska

F

0

36

0.0

41

Mississippi

F

0

57

0.0

41

Iowa

F

0

60

0.0

41

Louisiana

F

0

88

0.0

 

Total

 

735

5,325

13.

mark.barabak@latimes.com

Twitter: @markzbarabak

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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ElectionsFeminismPoliticsU.S. SenateLiz Cheney
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