|At every level of government across the country, women are in the minority of elected officials. Only five of the governors in the United States are women, and women make up 18.3% of Congress. At the local level, 17.4% of mayors are women - with only ten of those female mayors serving as elected officials in Texas.
Much has been said and written about the need for women candidates in the pipeline for political leadership in Texas. In the 83rd Legislature, only 20% of our State Senators and State Representatives are women.
2014 is gearing up to be a shake up year in Texas politics with so many statewide positions up for grabs. Of the forty Republican candidates who have officially announced their candidacy for a statewide office, only five are women. For the Texas GOP, 2014 could very well be a ticket that looks like any other.
And this is what is so important about Wendy Davis' position at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2014: voters are more likely to turn out when they feel they have real options, and that one of those options is someone they can identify with. The "gender affinity effect" refers to the likelihood of women voters to both turn out and cast a ballot for female candidates. But, it isn't enough just to have gender in common. Wendy Davis is the kind of candidate who offers a change from what Texas voters have had to chose from in the past. She is exciting, she is passionate, and she represents a more diverse vision for our state.
But Wendy Davis should not be, and will not be, the only female name on the ticket. Texas women should seize this opportunity and they should run - not only for State Representative races, but for local positions as well.
The American Association of University Women points to school board elections as vitally important to our communities. And, according to the National School Board Association, the gender gap in elected school board members is already smaller than that in other elected bodies and it is continuing to shrink. School board elections offer an area where female candidates fair better in their elections, and the results of these races will have a great impact on Texas' future.
Though they may not seem as glamorous, local elections are another key opportunity for women to run in Texas. Not only do these positions offer the women who hold them the ability to push for positive change in their communities, but they are also integral for bringing women into the pipeline of political leadership in Texas.
With someone as exciting and invigorating to the voters of Texas as Wendy Davis at the top of the ticket, women in Texas have the power to change their state for the better. It won't be easy. Women voters, like all voters, don't just turn out because there's a woman running. It will take a lot of work, but the promise of a Texas that looks more like Texans is a great place to start.
Can 2014 be the year of Texas women? The answer is a clear "Yes!" We need women to be brave and take risks alongside Wendy Davis, so our ballot is full of diverse candidates and leaders from top to bottom. And with organizations like Annie's List running candidate trainings across the state for women who are interested in running for office, there is a support structure in place for those who are ready to jump in. In 2014, women should run, because women can win.