Young politician: Inspired to run - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Young politician: Inspired to run

(Source: Ivanhoe Newswire) (Source: Ivanhoe Newswire)

PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- Women make up 51% of America’s population, but across the country, fewer than 25% of the state legislative seats are held by women. On the national level, in congress, that number drops to less than 18%. There’s an effort underway to train younger women how to overcome the challenges of a political campaign.

At republican headquarters in Monmouth County, New Jersey the political season is heating up. But for Caroline Casagrande, it’s business as usual. There has been no down time since she became the youngest woman ever elected to the New Jersey state legislature. That was eight years ago. She was 29-years -old.

Casagrande says, “Everybody always says, how did you get there so young? Part of it was because I was willing to do that work, and didn’t really mind what was coming at me.”

The Center for American Women and Politics has tracked women’s role in the political process since 1971.

Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics says, “What we started to see in the mid 90’s, particularly looking at the state legislative level, and even at the congressional level, we saw it kind of flat lining in the number of women running for office. We also know from our research that women are much more likely to run if they are asked, if they are recruited.”

That’s why the center developed “Ready to Run” — a program designed to recruit women and teach them how to overcome campaign obstacles, like fundraising.

Walsh says, “They might not have those same networks of money that men do; it might take them 10 phone calls to raise a thousand dollars, while a man might raise that money in one or two calls.”

Of all the women who go through the “Ready to Run” program, 40% decide to run for office. Of those, 70% win.

“It really does help launch women on their political careers,” says Walsh.

Casagrande says, “I’ve actually never run a single election where my opponents didn’t have at least three times as much money as me.”

In New Jersey’s most recent election, Caroline Casagrande lost her bid for office. Some political analysts called the loss “voter backlash” against the administration of republican Governor Chris Christie. Also, the region Casagrande represented was redistricted, putting more democrats than republicans in her region. Both are factors that are pretty tough to overcome.

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