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More women in Ky. participating in politics

Jun. 30, 2013 @ 11:59 AM

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — The increasing number of women participating in Kentucky politics is expected to grow over the next year as more graduate from a program that grooms them to hold public office.

Emerge Kentucky Director Elizabeth Sawyer told The Kentucky Enquirer that the initiative, which seeks Democratic candidates, expects to have more than 100 graduates from its program in time for the 2014 elections. Earlier this month, 22 finished the program, bringing the total number who have successfully completed it to 86.

“I think it’s a huge boost to have that many trained candidates,” Sawyer said. “Women are being sought after as candidates for both parties as they look to increase their numbers in the legislative bodies.”

The newspaper reports Kentucky ranks 37th in the nation in the percentage of women serving in the state legislature, an increase from 2007 when it ranked 49th.

In addition to the Emerge program, the Kentucky chapter of the National Federation of Republican Women holds training classes every few years for potential candidates.

The president of that organization, Carol Rogers, said it recruits women and helps campaigns of both men and women.

“I don’t know there are any more barriers for women than barriers for men,” Rogers said. “I think it’s hard to run for office. You have to have a job that allows time off of work to campaign, time away from family.”

The six-month Emerge course teaches women about skills candidates need such as public speaking and fundraising. Nine of 11 graduates last year won elections, mostly in local contests.

“I raised more money than my opponents,” said Kerry Holleran, 34, who won a seat on the Covington school board. “I did mailings. I used most of the money doing door-to-door targeted mailings. If I didn’t go through Emerge, I would have thought campaigning was just going to events and not known anything about targeting voters in your city.”

Virginia Johnson, a Kenton County Democrat who is on the board for Emerge, said women need a boost in confidence to run since politics has traditionally been dominated by men.

“Look at how women are underrepresented in Frankfort and D.C.,” Johnson said. “We are more than half the population and don’t have 50 percent representation in the General Assembly and Congress.”

Republican State Sen. Katie Stine of Southgate said the GOP doesn’t need to single women out and she doesn’t see any barriers for them to run for office other than busy schedules.

“I think it is more about how many women find the time to serve in this capacity,” Stine said.

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