GOP women candidates lost, Utah advocate for female leaders explains how to change that
SALT LAKE CITY — Why didn’t female Republican candidates in Utah make the cut? In the recent primary election in Utah, GOP Sen. Mike Lee received 62.2% of the vote, Becky Edwards just over 29.6% and Ally Isom just under 8.2%.
“The Utah Republican voters have spoken tonight, and they have made a choice,” Lee said on election night June 28.
Leading up to the primary, Lee paid little attention to Edwards, a former Utah legislator, and Isom, a community and business leader, as reported by Deseret News.
Why did these women GOP candidates and others lose so handily. KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and guest host Taylor Morgan discussed with Pat Jones, CEO Women’s Leadership Institute.
State Sen. Jones served in the Utah Legislature for 14 years, serving in leadership positions 12 of those years. She was a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 2000-2006 and was elected to the Utah Senate in 2006-2014, serving eight years.
Sexism? Absolutely, says guest host
“There’s about 860,000 active, registered Republicans in Utah. That is the vast majority of all registered voters in Utah. . . . 56% of all Republicans in Utah are women. Yet in our state Legislature, only about 25% of all legislators are women. Delegates in the Republican Party, only about 23% of delegates are women, so there’s a bit of a disconnect between the voters, elected officials and party delegates,” Taylor said.
“It’s hard not to think that maybe there’s some sexism,” Dave replied.
“Yes, there is, absolutely,” Taylor said.
The Utah Republican Party now only allows candidates who win at the convention to use its valuable nonprofit-postage rate and mailing lists. Overall, in 2022, 26% (27 of 104) of Utah legislators are women, gaining one GOP seat from 2021, according to The Status of Women in Utah Politics: A 2022 Update.
In 2022, only 10.6% of Utah legislators were Republican women (11/104). Nationally, the percentage of Republican women serving in state legislatures in 2021 was 9% — the same as in 1995. But Democratic women now make up 20% of state legislatures around the nation, according to Deseret News.
‘Closed primary… closed minds’
“This surprises me,” Dave said. “I assumed the reason that Becky Edwards and Ally Isom lost, and lost so handily, was because Mike Lee was so popular.”
“I’m not alleging sexism in the results of any one race in particular,” Taylor said. “My point is that there exists this systemic sexism in the Utah Republican Party at large.”
“Pat, why are women not being elected as often in Utah?” Dave asked.
“Thanks for having me and for pointing to this really big problem that we have in Utah,” Jones said. “Good question. I think you’ve pointed out many of the reasons for that. I think there is some systemic — could be sexism — however, I think it’s just the way the system is set up in the nominating process, especially in the Republican Party where you have a closed primary, but you also have a lot of closed minds.”
Women candidates, ‘that’s not your lane’
“Were there any specific races that really surprised you this primary cycle where a very qualified woman just wasn’t really given a fair shake?” Taylor asked.
Jones pointed to two races in Southern Utah that yielded a similar vote tally to the GOP primary race between Lee and Edwards.
“I live in St. George now, but there were a couple of great women candidates down here. Nina Barnes was one and Christie Pike was another one who I thought would do better than they did,” Jones said.
According to Deseret News:
Nina Barnes (R): 2,041, 37.58%
Colin Jack (R): 3,390, 62.42%
Kristy Pike (R): 2,975, 38.09%
R. Neil Walter (R): 4,836, 61.91%
Jones said she had many meetings with women who ran races this year and with leaders in St. George and she said there is an intimation that women leaders can only rise so high in Utah.
“There’s kind of this undercurrent of it’s OK for a woman to be a leader in a church position or school position or PTA position. But if you run above that, if you are looking for some sort of a leadership position beyond that, in politics or in other areas, it’s almost like, that’s not your lane. . . .
” . . . women offer unique skills. I think we could all agree on that. And we’re ignoring the benefit that we could derive from having females at the helm of so many of our political positions,” Jones said.
“How do we change that?” Dave asked.
” I think what needs to happen is we need to increase the number of people who actually vote [because] apathy is democracy’s biggest foe,” Jones said.
Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.
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