Women step up for Summit County
Ryan Summerlin September 17, 2012
Women have history of making history in Colorado politics.
Colorado was the first state to grant women the right to vote, the first to elect them to the state Legislature and the first to have a female Speaker of the House and Senate president.
This year, Colorado is poised to hit another milestone: Women could win a majority of the seats in the state Senate in the November election.
“Colorado is a progressive place,” incumbent candidate for county commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “We don’t think of people having limits, whether it’s gender, or race or background.”
Keeping pace with the state, women have tossed their names in the hat for three of the five offices representing Summit County that are up for grabs this year.
Breckenridge Democrat Emily Tracy is challenging Republican Randy Baumgardner for Summit’s state Senate District 8. Steigelmeier, a Democrat, is defending her seat on the Board of County Commissioners against GOPer Kevin Mastin and women dominate the race for House District 61, with ladies’ names on the Republican (Debra Irvine), Democrat (Millie Hamner), Libertarian (Ellen Temby) and Independent (Kathleen Curry) tickets.
But local women say their views, not their gender, are what matter to voters.
“All these other women, all these years before us, have given us these opportunities and given us the ability to not worry about it,” Independent HD 61 hopeful Kathleen Curry said. “Which is a pretty amazing thing, that we can just do our work and not focus on any of that. That’s a gift.”
Not to say women don’t have special skill sets to bring to the table as leaders, local candidates said. They agree that in politics, women tend to be good listeners, willing to collaborate and driven to find solutions.
“The traits that are typically associated with women are those traits that make people good legislators,” Hamner said.
Hamner, who was a member of the Colorado Women’s Caucus, partnered with Republican Sens. Jean White and Nancy Spence on education laws during her first term in the House.
“I think women have a lot to offer,” Tracy said. “They’re connectors and communicators. They have a lot of skills in conflict resolution, bringing people together and being problem solvers.”
Tracy said she’s seen a surge in female candidates across western Colorado, and attributes the uptick to the issues specific to this part of the state – including the economy and the quality of public education in rural schools – resounding with women.
“I do think there are more and more women stepping forward and deciding that they need to take on leadership roles to make sure these issues get addressed,” she said.
Across the state, there are dozens of women stepping forward for roles in government.
In 2012, Colorado had more female lawmakers than any other state in the country, with 40 percent of the 100-member Legislature made up of women.
This year, there are ladies running in 11 of 19 state Senate district races. If most of them win, they could potentially put women in the majority in the Senate in 2013.
Women are after 39 of the 65 seats in the state House of Representatives, and many of the contenders are Republicans, a shift from the past.
Only nine female lawmakers serving in the House in 2012 were Republicans, compared to 14 Democrats. But in the upcoming election, GOP women are stepping up in 18 House district races across the state.
“The GOP women are finding their voice,” said Gala Eppstein, a local voter and member of Women for Romney. “They’ve always felt that they had a voice, but especially this year, we’re being maligned. There’s a war against Romney claiming that there’s a war against women. But we don’t see it at all. I don’t think that exists.”