Female Democrats Hit a 'Glass Ceiling' in the Northeast

On the front page of Monday's New York Times, there's a story about a glass ceiling. 

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On the front page of Monday's New York Times, there's a story about a glass ceiling. It's not about Jill Abramson. Jonathan Martin reports on three women currently running for governor in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, all of whom have struggled to break into the boys' club that is progressive Northeastern politics.

Allyson Y. Schwartz is currently the only woman in Pennsylvania's 20-seat congressional delegation, and she hopes to be the state's first woman governor. Unfortunately, her chances aren't great. She faces another woman, Katie McGinty, in the primary — the two are likely to split the vote against self-funded businessman Tom Wolf. Still, Schwartz vows to break up "the old boys' club" in Harrisburg in her TV ads. "The western states have done much better," Schwartz tells Martin. "The pioneer states just treated women equally from the start." 

Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley and Rhode Island treasurer Gina Raimondo have faced similar challenges in their governor's races. As Myrth York, a Rhode Island Democrat who lost the governor's race three times, told Martin, "I’m not sure we’re as progressive a state as we think we are or are portrayed." Women have enough trouble becoming mayors of Democratic cities, let alone governors of Democratic states. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia have never elected female mayors. (Meanwhile, an 18-year-old high school boy was just sworn in as mayor of Archer City, Texas.) Martin notes the irony:

Women have become the crucial element of the Democratic coalition in the era of President Obama, propelling both his victories and those of many others in the party, but there is just one female Democratic governor in America today — Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. 

Debbie Walsh, chair of the Center for American Women at Politics at Rutgers, explains that voters still have trouble viewing women as executives, especially in states where Democratic voters tend to be older, blue-collar Catholics. The connections and money that female candidates often don't have are still crucial in Northeastern politics. Democrat Barbara Buono, who lost badly to Gov. Chris Christie last November, says that the "boys' club" image doesn't even begin to cover it: "To say the old boys’ club is alive and well is true but trivializes the impact that the vestiges of sexism have on women’s opportunities to lead." That's true in many industries.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.