Women continue to score gains in state elections

On Maryland Politics

September 19, 1990|By Peter Kumpa

AT EVERY single polling place that we visited in last week's primary voting, the impression among election judges was that more women had voted than men. There are no hard numbers to prove that estimate. But we accept it as fact.

It is merely a continuation of a decade-long trend. More women than men are registered voters in the state and the nation. And in the past two presidential elections, more women actually voted than men as well. That was the conclusion of exit polls conducted by the television networks and several newspapers.

With more women voting, more are also getting elected. Some of the gains are precedent-setting, like the victory of Sharon Pratt Dixon in the Washington, D.C., Democratic mayoral primary.

There was nothing quite comparable to that in Maryland, though the win by Eileen Rehrmann as the Democratic nominee for Harford County executive and the renomination of another Democrat, Elizabeth Bobo, as Howard County executive, opens the way for higher office in four years. If Rehrmann and Bobo win this year's general election they could be attractive candidates on several gubernatorial slates in 1994.

Of course, there are many other women who could be candidates for higher office, either in Congress or statewide office. Republican party chairman Joyce Lyons Terhes, for example, preferred the tough assignment of trying to put the GOP back on track rather than run with William Shepard in what appears to be a suicidal gubernatorial run. State Senate Democrats like Barbara Hoffman, Paula Hollinger and Nancy Murphy may be due more important assignments next year. On the House of Delegates side, Anne Perkins seems sure to return to the chairmanship of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee, while Nancy Kopp is more than capable of running any committee in Annapolis.

There is plenty of female talent in the House. Democrats would include Anne Marie Doory, Donna Felling, Jennie Forehand, Hattie Harrison, Sheila Hixson, Margaret Murphy, Marsha Perry, Carol Petzold and Joan Pitkin. For the GOP, there's Martha Klima, Jean Roesser and Ellen Sauerbrey.

So many women seem to be winning Senate seats that Annapolis wags are wondering how Senate President Mike Miller will manage with a phalanx of females in the back rows of the chamber. And some of those women will be moving up front.

Likely new senators include delegates Mary Boergers, Patricia Sher from Montgomery County and Gloria Lawlah from Prince George's County. Janice Piccinini may join those newcomers tTC though she may face a more difficult hurdle in November.

Still, women's gains in the Senate probably won't exceed a net gain of one even if newly appointed Sen. Patricia Cushwa can hang on to her seat in Western Maryland. Or it could be a wash. Women are also leaving politics. Some, like Sen. Catherine Riley, chose retirement and the lure of academia. Others, like Senators Margaret Schweinhaut and Sharon Hornberger, lost primaries.

When the general election is over, the House of Delegates will be seating more female freshmen than the Senate. Newcomers like Leslie Hutchinson and Connie Galiazzo are breaking down barriers as the first women elected from their eastern Baltimore County districts. Other impressive likely first-timers include Carolyn Krysiak from East Baltimore, Salima Siler Marriott from west Baltimore, Delores Kelley from northwest Baltimore, Edith Segree from Anne Arundel County and Rose Mary Hatem Bonsack and Mary Louise Preis from Harford County.

Maryland voters, male and female, have been disposed to elect women candidates for many years. In Barbara Mikulski, Maryland gave Democrats their only U.S. senator. At one time, half the state's congressional delegation was female. It might have been been again if Del. Barbara Kreamer had won a few thousand more votes against Rep. Roy Dyson in the 1st District Democratic primary. With Representatives Helen Delich Bentley, Beverly Byron and Connie Morella, the state can boast a strong women's team.

A female governor? Or another senator? That doesn't seem to be in the cards in the immediate future. Bentley almost entered the race against Sen. Paul Sarbanes in his last run. Republicans would have been thrilled if either Bentley or Morella wanted to run for governor this year. They could have had the nomination on a silver platter. Gender parity in gubernatorial politics may not be just around the corner, but it is surely coming.

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