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Women needed in public office

The number of women running for elected office has set a record this year, a trend we hope continues.

The Associated Press reports there are 309 women seeking higher office in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, a new record. Both major parties are represented, although many of this year’s candidates are running as Democrats.

There is also an unprecedented number of women running for local offices – for township and town boards, city councils, county councils and asking to be appointed to local board that make decisions for their communities.

Political ideology aside, we think this is a positive development.

In Clinton County, we have had women as judges, county auditors, recorders, treasurers and clerks. We find them as town and city clerk-treasurers and on town and school boards.

But only one woman, Wanda Mitchell, sits on the Frankfort City Council, and Nikki Beem is the only woman on the Frankfort Redevelopment Commission.

There are no women on the Clinton County Board of Commissioners or Clinton County Council, and Frankfort has had only one woman mayor, Mary Jane Innis McMahon.

This does not mean that any woman who runs should be elected by virtue of her sex – certainly not. We all know both women and men who bring only their contrariness to the discussion and little else.

We as a nation are slowly breaking down old stereotypes of women as weak and unqualified leaders.

The reality is we need women in leadership, not just because women make up roughly half of the world’s population but because equal opportunity is a guiding philosophy of our democratic project. How can we say America is a land of equal opportunity when a majority of those holding public office are men? We can’t but thankfully that is starting to change.

Representation is important in other ways, too. The climate of sexual harassment in Congress and elsewhere is encouraged in part because too few women are in positions of power. But more than that, women have good ideas and they can bring much to governance. They should not be barred from leadership positions. Rather, they should be encouraged and supported to run.

Also, we need women in elected positions so young girls understand there are no positions to which they can’t aspire. Young boys also can benefit from seeing their mothers, aunts, neighbors, and grandmothers as helping to run the world.