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Women Win Elections in Utah...But They Have to Run First

Jennifer Pemberton

Dozens of women with political ambition or at least curiosity, turned up at the Real Women Run training in Sandy over the weekend.

Real Women Runis a nonpartisan advocacy group that encourages women to run for public office in Utah. Because statistics show that women win elections at the same rate as men, but very few women run for office in the first place, especially in Utah, where they make up only 15 percent of the state legislature.

Gender isn’t the only way these women don’t fit the mold in Utah politics. Maile Wilson probably exemplifies this best.

Wilson was elected last November as the first female and youngest mayor ever of Cedar City.

“I was 26 when I filed. There had never been anyone under mid- to late-fifties…I’m still in a small conservative community, not married, being a female, not having children, all the stereotypical roles,” Wilson said.

Wilson focused on the positives of all those factors that made her a non-traditional candidate, and she won the seat with 56 percent of the votes.

Debbie Snow ran for City Council in South Salt Lake and was just sworn in this month. She said she didn’t have time as a lawyer to run for office. It wasn’t until after she decided to have a family that she found the time to get involved:

“I don’t ever want to send the message to my fellow women that being a stay-at-home mom is not valuable. I think that if anything if you’re going to integrate anything into that important calling, public service fits into that more than a full-time job,” Snow said.

In addition to providing reasons why women should run for office, the training also addressed the nuts and bolts of managing a campaign and ultimately tips for how to win an election.

Holly Richardson is a former member of the Utah House of Representatives and blogs about Utah politics as "Holly on the Hill":

“You gotta outwork your competition. That’s the Ginger Rogers rule. She did everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in high heels,” Richardson said.

Utah currently ranks 46th in the nation for representation of women in elected office.