The Census says 51 percent of Ohio’s residents are women. You’d never know that looking at the General Assembly’s roster and the historical list of Ohio’s statewide elected executive officers. Both major parties talk up equity between women and men, but the Statehouse has yet to see it.
Only one woman has served as governor of Ohio, and then just briefly: Gov. Nancy P. Hollister, a Marietta Republican who’d been George Voinovich’s lieutenant governor. She succeeded Voinovich when he resigned to take a U.S. Senate seat. Hollister was governor from Dec. 31, 1998, until Jan. 11, 1999, when Republican Bob Taft was inaugurated. Hollister is now vice president of the State Board of Education.
Today, the only woman on the roster of Ohio’s statewide elected executive officers is suburban Akron Republican Mary Taylor, who is Gov. John R. Kasich’s lieutenant governor. Taylor is seeking the GOP’s 2018 nomination for governor.
Also running are fellow Republicans Mike DeWine, Jon Husted and Jim Renacci; Democratic state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni; and three Democratic women: Former state Rep. Connie Pillich, of Cincinnati; former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, of suburban Akron; and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. (And Democratic Supreme Court Justice William M. O’Neill has announced his campaign for governor.)
Not till 1970, 50 years after women gained the right to vote, did Ohioans elect a woman to be a statewide executive officer: Democrat Gertrude W. Donahey, as state treasurer.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 24.9 percent of the members of the nation’s 50 state legislatures are women. Of the Ohio General Assembly’s 132 members, about 22 percent are women. And among the General Assembly’s 200-plus-year list of top legislative leaders, just one woman has reached the House speakership, suburban Columbus Republican Jo Ann Davidson. She was speaker from 1995 through 2000. Moreover, it’s been almost 70 years since the Senate elected a woman its majority leader (today’s Senate president): Cleveland Democrat Margaret A. Mahoney, in 1949-50.
True, the seven-judge Ohio Supreme Court is led by Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, whose fellow justices include Republicans Judith L. French and Sharon L. Kennedy.
What’s more, Ohio was the first state to elect a woman to its court of last resort – Greater Cleveland’s Florence E. Allen, elected to the Supreme Court in 1922, re-elected in 1928, then appointed by Franklin Roosevelt to the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Circuit). Still, it was roughly 50 years before another woman joined Ohio’s Supreme Court – Greater Cleveland Republican Blanche Krupansky, appointed in 1981 by GOP Gov. James A. Rhodes. When Krupansky sought election to the court, Greater Cleveland Democrat James P. Celebrezze won instead.
In the 1980s and 1990s, state Senate Republicans had success in recruiting women to run for the Senate. And Davidson is an untiring mentor for women considering running for office. All four legislative caucuses and the two parties need to focus on that as well.
As is the case with everyone in politics, there are women who are conservative, middle of the road or liberal; pro-abortion-rights or anti-abortion-rights; fans or foes of school choice., etc. What matters is that the wider the spectrum of opinions expressed in the Statehouse and around Capitol Square, the better the policy options Ohioans can consider.
Meanwhile, as women of every heritage and vocation know, there is a species of humankind known as clueless men. Every General Assembly session, the legislature seems to reach its quota. That’s why hearing varied points of view matters so much – in the legislature, in Ohio’s courts, and among Ohio’s elected statewide executive officers.