PA., N.J. Women Face Obstacles In Political Races

By Jonathan Tamari
The Philadelphia Inquirer.

WASHINGTON

When the smoke cleared from congressional primary season, women had taken one step forward in New Jersey, and one back in Pennsylvania.

The result: Come January, two states with a combined 34 seats in the Senate and House will likely include just one or, at most, two women.

“It’s pathetic,” Julie Roginsky, a New Jersey Democratic consultant, said of her party’s failure to elect a Garden State woman to Congress since 1976.

That drought is likely to end in November, thanks to the results of Tuesday’s primaries. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, a Democrat, won the party’s nomination in a heavily Democratic central New Jersey district and is favored to win in the fall.

In South Jersey, Democrats nominated Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard for the seat being vacated by Republican Jon Runyan. She faces a tougher fall race but has a viable shot in a competitive district.

New Jersey, with a 14-person Senate and House delegation, hasn’t had any women in Congress since Republican Margaret Roukema left office Jan. 3, 2003.

In Pennsylvania, with 20 Senate and House seats, the only woman — Democrat Allyson Y. Schwartz of Abington — is on her way out, having run for her party’s gubernatorial nomination and lost in the state’s May 20 primary.

Three women who hoped to replace her (two Democrats and one Republican) also fell short that day, as did Shaughnessy Naughton, a Democrat who sought nomination in the Bucks County-centered Eighth District.

So, barring a major upset, Pennsylvania’s delegation will become all-male when a new Congress begins in January.

“If you don’t have [women] at the table, you don’t really have the full representation of the state’s population,” said Kelly Dittmar, assistant research professor at Rutgers University’s Center on Women in American Politics.

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