"Women still have to run harder and
faster than any man," Bresenhan says. "A
man can run part-time. A woman has to
Women have to spend more time campaigning because so much time is
run and lose and build positive name
identification but women run a much
greater risk of being labeled "losers."
"I haven't quite figured that one out
yet, but it's true." Gerhardt said. "Take
Frances Farenthold. Twice she lost for
"I think a lot of women are
apprehensive about running. It's
always been a man's field, so they
- Joyce Cragg
consumed convincing people that they
really are "serious, viable" candidates. As
Pool explains, "Everybody wants to
know if you're really serious-especially
the politicians. They don't ask a man if
That word "serious" is one Kathy
Whitmire heard many times during her
race last year for city controller. She
managed to convince enough people she
was indeed serious and thus became the
first woman ever elected to city-wide office in Houston.
"I hate to see people get into a race if
they have committments to their jobs or
families or whatever that will keep them
from being able to run a serious campaign," Whitmire said. Whitmire hopes
her election will make it easier for other
women to be perceived as "serious" candidates with real victory potential.
"People are reluctant to run if they
don't stand a good chance to win," says
Billie Carr. "Losing is not fun, and if it
does not appear that a woman stands a
reasonable chance from the outset, she's
even more likely to lose. Everyone wants
to back a winner."
But is a loss at the polls always a loss?
Carr is one who feels the name identification built up during a first unsuccessful
race might well provide the key to winning the second or third time around.
She is also an advocate of filing a woman
in every open position "just so people get
used to the fact that women's names are
going to be there."
But Joyce Cragg, who chairs the Harris
County Women's Political Caucus, thinks
women are better off not running unless
they really know what they're doing or
can command the financial resources to
hire those who do. "If you don't have
good organization in your campaign,
you're going to fall on your face trying to
run- unless you happen to luck out, and
the luck of the Irish covers very few
"A woman can't run and lose too
many times." In the view of attorney Jo
Ann Gerhardt, an unsuccessful candidate
for the state legislature in 1974, men can
"I believe women just can't
survive too many defeats in the
— Jo Ann Gerhardt
governor, so politically, I think in the
minds of people she's dead, which is ridiculous. She's qualified, and she's got
fantastic name identification, but I just
believe women can't survive too many defeats in the public's mind."
In any event, Gerhardt says her one
defeat does not mean she's giving up.
"I'm going to run, and I'm going to win."
Lack of political experience among
women is a major factor in preventing
them from acquiring the experience, adds
Joyce Cragg. "I think a lot of women are
apprehensive about running-feeling they
don't have the political background or
the expertise and so they don't run. It's
always been a man's field, so therefore,
they're very hesitant about running."
If there is one piece of advice all women in pohtics apparently agree on, it is to
urge women to get first-hand experience
and knowledge through someone else's
race before trying one themselves.
The Women's Political Caucus is trying
to provide an additional training ground,
as well as candidate recruitment and
grooming. The knowledge is there for the
"I just wish we had more answers as to
why there aren't more women candidates." Carr said. "I guess it's a shortcoming of the women's movement."
Not all is bleak however. Cragg points
out four of the ten women running for
office locally are running for judgeships.
Others are running for the state legislature, county clerk, state board of education and for county chair of the Democratic party. Statewide, she says, there are
quite a few women running. The caucus is
active in recruiting and supporting female
Whitmire's election as city controller
is expected to provide a lot of encouragement. She is among the many who hope
the ballot two and four years from now
will list many more women's names.
"I hope so," Whitmire says "but if we
don't do something towards developing
those women (early), there may not be
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WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU WANT
THE POLITICAL CANDIDATES TO ANSWER?
Ninety-four percent of you voted in the last election, according to our reader survey. You carry a lot of clout politically.
Therefore, we feel a responsibility to let you know where the
candidates stand on issues that are important to you. You
can help us inform you by letting us know what these issues
Next month's Breakthrough will focus on the May primary
elections. We will carry news stories on candidates in key
contested races and their responses to your questions.
It's going to be a long ballot, so you'll want to be an informed voter on the following races:
U. S. Senator
U. S. Representative
State Board of Education
County Party Chair
Help! There are 126 candidates for 72 state and local judgeships. Fewer than 50 percent of those who go to the polls
vote in judicial races. These are the judges you face in divorce
trials, child custody hearings and rape cases.
We will publish first-person accounts from individuals and attorneys (names withheld on request) of legal experiences
with incumbent judges. For example, one of pur readers was
told by her attorney during her recent divorce trial, "Forget
it. Don't contest anything. I checked the docket and you
have Judge Wells Stewart.. . "
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March 1978 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH Page 5