Dem leg­is­la­tors from area to be mostly women in Jan­uary

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JOSEPH BUSTOS jbus­[email protected]

For 13 years, Dan Beiser was the state rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the 111th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, around the Al­ton river­bend. When he re­signed in De­cem­ber of 2017, Mon­ica Bris­tow took his place and raised the num­ber of fe­male leg­is­la­tors from St. Clair and Madi­son County to three.

Bris­tow, along with state Rep. LaToya Green­wood, D-East St. Louis, and state Rep. Katie Stu­art, D-Ed­wardsville, will be joined by one more metro-east woman in the leg­is­la­ture when Rachelle Aud Crowe is sworn into the state se­nate.

From 2009 through the end of 2016, all of the leg­is­la­tors from the metro-east were men.

“I think women are more nur­tur­ing, we’re more prone to nego- tiat­ing and I think we’ll see a dif­fer­ent cul­ture in the state House,” Bris­tow said.

In 2016, the gen­der makeup of metro-east state leg­is­la­tors be­gan to bal­ance out. Ed­die Lee Jack­son was suc­ceeded by Green­wood. Stu­art de­feated Dwight Kay. Beiser was re­placed by Bris­tow when he stepped down in 2017.

Seven of the 10 metro-east leg­isla­tive seats in St. Clair and Madi­son coun­ties are filled by Democrats. And when Crowe suc­ceeds Wil­liam Haine in Jan­uary, a ma­jor­ity of the metroeast Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors in Springfield will be women.

“I wouldn’t say it was in­ten­tional as in that only fe­males were con­sid­ered (in 2016) be­cause I know that is not the case, but I think it’s a great re­sult,” Stu­art said.

“I think … we need to re­al­ize that women need a voice and mi­nori­ties of all ilk, based on reli­gion, race and ev­ery­thing else need to be ap­pro­pri­ately

rep­re­sented every­where — CEOs, govern­ment po­si­tions and teach­ing and every­where else,” Stu­art added.

The metro-east has elected women to the leg­is­la­ture in the past.

State Rep. Wyvet­ter Younge, a Demo­crat from East St. Louis pre­ceded Jack­son in the 114th Dis­trict. She served from

1975 through 2008. Eve­lyn M. Bowles served in the state se­nate from

1994 to 2003 be­fore be­ing suc­ceeded by Haine.

“It’s not new or un­prece­dented, just for some rea­son we had had mostly male leg­is­la­tors and now we have a ma­jor­ity fe­male from the metro-east on the Demo­cratic side,” said state Rep. Jay Hoff­man, D-Swansea.

Hoff­man said that’s more re­fec­tion of their qual­ity as can­di­dates than their gen­der. But their per­sonal per­spec­tive on is­sues like equal pay for equal work will in­flu­ence the de­bate.

“I’m happy with the tal­ent, whether they’re men or women, that all of these new leg­is­la­tors are go­ing to bring to the ta­ble,” Hoff­man said.

Women are set to make up 36 per­cent of the gen­eral assem­bly when the next class of leg­is­la­tors is sworn in. That is up from 35 per­cent in 2018.

“I’m very ex­cited about women be­ing in­cluded and hav­ing a seat at the ta­ble when it comes to is­sues that af­fect us, be­cause we more times than not are the solvers. So we know how to solve prob­lems,” Green­wood said. “This helps us have a greater plat­form on is­sues that af­fect all of us, not only in the metro-east, but all over the state of Illi­nois. Not just women’s is­sues, but is­sues in gen­eral.”

In the 100th Gen­eral Assem­bly, which ad­journed its 2018 ses­sion on Thurs­day, there are 15 women in the state se­nate and 47 women in the House.

When the next gen­eral assem­bly is sworn-in, there will be 20 women in the se­nate and 44 women in the House.

“I think we’re just start­ing. I’m very ex­cited to be a part of this. When I’mat the new mem­ber train­ing and I look around, there are a lot of fe­males in the room,” Crowe said. “There’s an in­stant ca­ma­raderie and most of us are moms and we all know what we’ve been through, through this cam­paign sea­son. I do think this is just the be­gin­ning.”

Illi­nois has been closer to gen­der bal­ance than other states. In 2018 women made up 25.8 per­cent of state leg­is­la­tors in the United States, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures.

In 2018, the Illi­nois leg­is­la­ture had the sixth high­est per­cent­age of women. Ari­zona and Ver­mont had the high­est with each hav­ing 40 per­cent women, Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures data shows.

Even though Illi­nois had a higher per­cent­age of women in its leg­is­la­ture, the capi­tol build­ing was hit with its own Me Too sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dals. Com­plaints led to state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, re­sign­ing from his lead­er­ship po­si­tion in the state House, and the ouster of Tim Mapes, the chief of staff of Speaker Mike Madi­gan. Lang was ul­ti­mately cleared of ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions.

Whether hav­ing more women in the of­fice helps pre­vent ha­rass­ment is spec­u­la­tion, Crowe said.

“What pre­vents it is aware­ness, and maybe when you look around at who is lead­ing that is­sue of aware­ness, those are fe­males for the most part,” Crowe said.

The Cen­ter for

Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics at Rut­gers Univer­sity does on­go­ing re­search on women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. The in­flu­ence of women and mi­nori­ties make a prov­able dif­fer­ence in state leg­is­la­tures, said its di­rec­tor, Deb­bie Walsh.

“We know that it mat­ters to have more women in of­fice, to have more di­ver­sity in of­fice,” she said. “Peo­ple bring all of their life ex­pe­ri­ences to the ta­ble when they’re serv­ing, and it shapes their pri­or­i­ties and it shapes how they’re go­ing to lead.”

Walsh said women would have dif­fer­ent out­looks on child care and health care.

“They might see the dif­fer­en­tial im­pact a pol­icy might have on women or sin­gle moms or kids that their male col­leagues might not see,” Walsh said. “It’s not that their male col­leagues won’t be sup­port­ive, it’s just that they won’t see it. It might not oc­cur to them.”

Ul­ti­mately the goal would be gen­der par­ity among elected of­fi­cials, Walsh said.

“It’s still not 50 per­cent, which is where it should be,” Walsh said. “Women make up 51 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. It would be nice if women were 50 to 51 per­cent of the elected of­fi­cials (and) if peo­ple of color were well-rep­re­sented. Gay, straight, race, eth­nic­ity, reli­gion — all of that di­ver­sity en­riches our democ­racy.”

Illi­nois has pro­grams to en­cour­age and train women to run for of­fice. The Re­pub­li­can Party in Illi­nois of­fers the Lin­coln Se­ries, while the Demo­cratic Party has the Illi­nois Women’s In­sti­tute for Lead­er­ship Train­ing Academy. Loretta Durbin, wife of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, is a past pres­i­dent and found­ing board mem­ber of the later.

Putting more women into elected of­fices, how­ever, has been an in­cre­men­tal change.

Illi­nois went from be­ing ranked 16th in the coun­try in 2010 to sev­enth in 2011 in per­cent­age of women in the leg­is­la­ture. That hap­pened when Illi­nois had a net gain of five women.

“It is a slow process of get­ting more women to run and hav­ing more women par­tic­i­pate in the process,” Walsh said.

Na­tion­ally, 2018 pro­duced a record num­ber of fe­male can­di­dates for state leg­isla­tive seats, Walsh said. She added the Democrats among them ben­e­fited by the sup­port of Emily’s List, which raises money for women can­di­dates. Re­pub­li­can women need some­thing com­pa­ra­ble, Walsh said.

The state GOP has run women can­di­dates in the metro-east, but they were un­suc­cess­ful. Kather­ine Ruocco, in 2014, and Tanya Hilden­brand, in 2018, both ran for state se­nate seats in the 57th Dis­trict, but ul­ti­mately lost in gen­eral elec­tions. Ruocco also chal­lenged Hoff­man in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2016.

In 2018 Wendy Erhart, of Maryville, had the sup­port of the Illi­nois Re­pub­li­can Party when she cam­paigned in the 112th State House Dis­trict. Erhart ul­ti­mately lost to Kay in the pri­mary.

Walsh says con­tin­u­ing the trend to­ward more gen­der par­ity de­pends on more Re­pub­li­can women get­ting elected.

“We will never get to po­lit­i­cal par­ity if we’re only elect­ing more Demo­cratic women,” Walsh said. “I think the (Re­pub­li­can) party has to do more to re­cruit and sup­port women to run for of­fice ... The party has to make it a pri­or­ity. They have to re­ally value get­ting more Re­pub­li­can women in of­fice and that means re­cruit­ing them, sup­port­ing them and groom­ing them. And it might mean step­ping in some pri­maries and run­ning women in winnable races and winnable dis­tricts.”

Mon­ica Bris­tow

JOSEPH BUSTOS jbus­[email protected]

When Rachelle Aud Crowe takes of­fice in Jan­uary, a ma­jor­ity of the metro-east Demo­cratic leg­is­la­tors in Springfield will be women.

Rachelle Aud Crowe

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