Women In Georgia, And Across The Nation, Are Running For Office In Record Numbers
Cheyenne Warnock knocks on doors in her hometown of Cochran south of Macon. She’s campaigning with her 9 month old baby in a carrier on her back. Her three other kids are at home with a sitter.
She greets a woman answering her door, “I’m Cheyenne Warnock. I’m running for State House of Representative.”
Friday, March 9 is the final day of qualifying in Georgia for the 2018 elections. Many of the candidates are women stepping into the political arena for the first time. Ten are running for Congressional seats, many others for state and local offices.
Cheyenne Warnock is running for House District 144 that includes all or parts of Bibb, Bleckley, Houston, Jones, Laurens, Twiggs and Wilkinson Counties. She said her oldest son convinced her to run for a seat in the Georgia House.
“He’s really probably the biggest reason that I’m running for office because I want him to see that people can make a difference and get involved and there’s always something that all of us can do even if it’s not running for offices,” she said.
But she thinks running for office is the best way to look out for rural parts of the state and issues like health care, economic development and education.
Warnock said responses from family and friends on her decision have been varied.
“Some people have been really excited. A lot of people have asked me, ‘Who will watch the kids?’ if I get elected,” she said.
Lori Johnson is a Professor of Political Science at Mercer University in Macon. She said that response is not uncommon. Johnson said female candidates often deal with something political scientists call the “Motherhood Bind.”
“If you aren’t a mother there’s something suspicious about you, and people aren’t sure if they trust that in a woman,” Johnson said. “And if you are a mother then why aren’t you home with your children? What are you doing with them? And so you really can’t win either way.”
Statistically just over 20 percent of those holding elected office are women, but those numbers are expected to rise. According to Rutgers University, the number of women running for Congress this year has nearly doubled from 2016, to more than 400.
“For a lot of women who are running it’s not as women they are running,” Johnson said. “It’s because the issues they care about and the changes they want to see made in society. But sometimes the gender can overwhelm those things.”
But several women have chosen to stay behind the scenes in more of an advocacy role. Claire Cox founded a non-partisan group in Middle Georgia called Georgia Women and Those Who Stand with Us.
“We have not aligned with either party,” she said. “We are working on the issues and trying to find what among those issues that we do agree on. Because there’s a lot we agree on between the two parties.”
The group focuses on issues affecting women and families. It helped Warner Robins become the first Georgia city to offer paid family leave. Cox said the group came together following the Women’s March on Washington last year.
“From there that’s where Georgia Women grew from and the second action in 100 days was the event that occurred at a local church and that’s where 150 people showed up and we’ve grown from there,” Cox said. “We currently have more than 700 as a part of our group.”
Back in Cochran, Cheyenne Warnock kept knocking on doors. She left a campaign card with Deandrea Baker who agreed to help out as a volunteer.
“The election’s not until November. We’re getting a head start here,” Warnock said.
The seat Warnock is running for is currently held by Republican Bubber Epps who recently announced he will not seek re-election. Warnock’s other opponents include Democrats Jessica Walden and Mary Anne Whipple Lue and Republicans Danny Mathis and Milton Sampson.