Guess who's not running
By Dixie Lee Hawkins
"We're never going to elect women until
we run women," acording to Democratic
National Committeewoman Billie Carr. If
that's true, Harris County's 1978 ballots
do not bode well for the election of women to public office.
"We're never going to elect
women until we run women."
- Billie Carr
"I didn't buy a dress for two
years, until those campaign debts
were paid off."
— Karey Bresenhan
Houston AreaWomen's Center
invites you to a
Nikki Van Hightower
Special Guests and Entertainment
Galleria Plaza Hotel
Saturday, April 8,1978
seven to eight
for information call 488-9370
For reservations, send $15 per person. Make checks payable to
Houston Area Women's Center, c/o Dr. Nanette Bruckner,
UH/Clear Lake City, P. O. Box 36, 2700 Bay Area Blvd.,
Houston, TX 77058.
All proceeds will benefit the Houston Area Women's Center.
If you cannot join us, contributions may be sent to the
Women's Center office, 2518 Grant St., Houston, TX 77006.
All Contributions are tax-deductible.
Of the 185 local names in the May 6
Democratic primary ballot, only nine are
women. Only one woman is running in
the Republican primary - out of 53
"We weren't looking far enough ahead.
willing to make. I'm not sure that's because I'm a woman. It's just my conservative nature, and I think you have to be
willing to go into debt to run some of
Appel chairs the League of Women
Page 4 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH March 1978
"I don't know what the divorce rate is among politicians,
but it must be tremendous."
— Nancy Palm
We got caught without many candidates,"
says former city women's advocate Dr.
Nikki Van Hightower.
Why aren't there more women running
this year? Political observers and former
candidates cite fund-raising difficulties,
lack of experience, family responsibilities
and prejudice against women holding office.
Discrimination has indeed held back
women's participation in elective politics,
particularly in raising campaign funds.
"You have to have the money," says
onQ former candidate. "I don't care how
many times women—and men—who are
managing campaigns say, 'We're going to
have a shoe leather campaign, that if we
have enough volunteers, we can do it
without money.' They can say that until
they're blue in the face. If you don't have
the money, you aren't going to win."
Karey Bresenhan did not win in 1974
when she ran for state representative,
but she did pile up campaign debts. "The
only way I had of paying those, at the
time, was to go back to work. So I started
my own business and I allocated every
penny of the profits until those debts
were paid. I can remember not buying a
dress for two years-not buying anything
above the absolute basic necessities of
life-until those debts were paid off."
A study that came out shortly after
the 1974 election showed Democrat Bresenhan had been running in a district that
is one of the most consistently Republican districts in the entire nation. Ironically, Bresenhan was defeated by a woman
who is now the only high-ranking Republican left in the Carter administration-
Kay Bailey. Today, Bresenhan says she
now prefers to help elect other women instead of running again herself.
Money was not the chief reason Madeline Appel chose not to run for City
Council last year, but it certainly had a
"For me, it would be very difficult to
put my family into debt in order to run a
campaign. Not that they wouldn't be willing. My husband is deeply supportive, but
it's a psychological step I haven't been
"What every woman candidate
needs is a good wife."
— Janis Pool
Voters national budget committee and is
past president of the league in Houston.
She is also the mother of two young children. Her family was the biggest single
factor in her decision. Appel wants to
wait four or six years until her children
are older, before she again seriously considers running for City Council.
"I don't think a city councilperson
spends any more time being a city councilperson than I did as League President
and do now in my state and national
League work, but the year-long campaign
is exceedingly intensive. It requires you
go night and day, and not only can you
not share the burden of running the car
pool and taking the kids to the doctor. . .
you cannot do it all. In today's society, when all is said and done, the person
who kind of holds it together is still the
"Campaigning on your home turf is
one thing," said Nancy Palm, former
Harris County Republican Party chair.
"Going to Austin as a state legislator or
to Washington as a member of Congress is
"When you look around, there're just
not many women who are willing to leave
their husbands or their children to go off
and serve in public life. I don't know
what the divorce rate is among politicians, but it must be tremendous. . . It
does put a strain on family relationships.
The phone rings at all hours of the day
and night. You're at the whim of other
people and there are tremendous demands put upon you by other people,"
"What every woman candidate and every woman office holder needs is a good
wife," said Janis Pool, an unsuecessful
candidate for County Commissioner in
1974. That wouldn't solve all the problems, but it would certainly get dinner on
the table and the kids off to school.
Unlike Palm, who says she may run for
a state legislative seat in a few years, Pool
has no more interest in running for office.
She claims she hasn't been "burned" by
her unsuccessful race, she's "just not programmed to be a candidate."