Women Have Monopoly On Judicial Elections

Of the nine candidates running in Louisiana’s judicial races this year, all of them are women. This is certainly welcome news for those who want to see more women in elected office in the Bayou State, where strides have been slow.

Of course, this means that the four judicial elections on the March 25 ballot will give us four women judges, three of which will be replacing male successors. That’s a net gain of three new women representatives on the bench — a figure that should help Louisiana move the needle a bit in terms of national rankings.

In a report last year, the Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University found that 31 percent of the judges serving in Louisiana were women. That’s up from 27 percent in 2011, when the State University of New York at Albany published a similar study. (The latter document also ranked Louisiana near the middle of all states in terms of the percentage of women elected to the bench.)

That’s at least a start, based on the Newcomb study authored by Salmon A. Shomade of Emory University in Atlanta and Sally J. Kenney of Tulane University.

“Louisiana often ranks last or next to last in analyses of the pay gap between men and women, maternal and infant mortality, or percentage of women in the state legislature,” they write. “Some political scientists have gone so far as to argue that women either cannot win in the South or face more significant gender-based hurdles than in other regions. Yet women do relatively well in partisan judicial elections in Louisiana, hold positions of judicial leadership, and are relatively well represented in federal courts.”

That trend definitely carries over into this spring’s judicial races, of which one contest has actually already been decided. Allison Hopkins Penzato of Mandeville was elected without opposition during qualifying to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. She’s taking over for retired Judge Ernie Drake Jr.

Penzato, however, is just the first of what will be four female judges holding new gavels this year. The other candidates running, and their respective seats sought, include:

— 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Lafayette: Vanessa Waguespack Anseman, Candyce Perret and Susan Theall are all vying to replace Justice Jimmy Genovese, who upgraded to the state Supreme Court last election cycle.

— 4th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans: Judge Paula Brown and Judge Tiffany Gautier Chase are in a gavel-versus-gavel brawl to pick up where retired Judge Dennis Bagneris left off.

— Civil District Court (Division B) in New Orleans: Rachael Johnson, Suzy Montero and Marie Williams are allowing voters to select another woman for this seat, which was vacated by now-4th Circuit Court Judge Regina Bartholomew Woods.

While a net gain of three seats is nothing to sneeze at, Shomade and Kenney wrote in their Newcomb study that population estimates need to be taken into account too. For example, while women hold 31 percent of all judgeships in Louisiana, they also account for 51 percent of the overall population.

The stats read a little better on paper when you look only at the federal courts based in our state — meaning three U.S. district courts and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that area alone in Louisiana women constitute 40 percent of all judgeships.

But again, many believe progress is arriving too slowly. State Rep. Helena Moreno, a New Orleans Democrat, is among those who see greater opportunities for women to succeed in politics and other fields. She’s the founder of Ignite Advocacy Network, a nonprofit group created to “advance policies that help women and their families.”

Moreno’s Ignite isn’t geared toward getting more women elected into office, or even recruiting the right kind of candidates to influence the statistics mentioned in this column. But the organization does seem to be at the forefront of larger sentiment in this state — that women want a larger share of the political apparatus and they’re ready to take it.

Another group, Emerge Louisiana, is starting to raise money in the state this month to establish a seven-month candidate training program for Democratic women. Meanwhile, other organizations like the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women are helping develop conservative women candidates to put on the ballot.

In the Louisiana Legislature, where Moreno serves, some very meager headway has been made. The National Conference of State Legislatures recently moved the state up a single spot for female representation in the House and Senate to 44th in the nation.

There are 22 women in the Legislature, including 17 in the House and five in the Senate, accounting for 15 percent of both chambers. None of them serve in key leadership positions. Nationally, approximately 1,830 women will serve in 50 state legislatures in 2017, making up 24.8 percent of those bodies. That’s a barely noticeable increase over 24.4 percent in 2016.

As such, the judiciary still appears to be the prime place for elected women to succeed in Louisiana and maybe even close the gap with their male counterparts. Fielding quality candidates, though, is the most important part of the equation. Without electable women on the ballot — or a monopoly on qualifying like we’re seeing this year — progress will not continue.

As Shomade and Kenney noted in their Newcomb study, there is more to be accomplished. “Just because Louisiana is uncharacteristically average, rather than at the bottom of state rankings, is no reason for complacency,” they wrote.

LOWDOWN: How A Podcast Gets Made

Here at LaPolitics, we like to use our videos and podcasts to teach you something you don’t already know. So in this week’s Lowdown, we’re

Ronnie, Riverboats & Re-Election Campaigns

His father pitched for The New York Yankees before gaining his political chops in Bunkie, Louisiana, just like his son did. So who is it

SPONSORED: Celebrating 25 Years Of Burkenroad Reports

Twenty-five years ago, Professor Peter Ricchiuti founded a unique learning opportunity for Tulane University graduate students that has not

PRE-SINE DIE Q&A WITH SEN. BRET ALLAIN

LaPolitics: That final Finance vote in HB 1 was such a break from the session rhythm. Quick, unemotional and transactional. Was that

ALFORD: The Capitol’s Dirty Little Secret

The governor of Louisiana is not politically omnipotent. (I’m referring to the storied position of governor, not the man or the woman who

RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY: John Breaux’s Last-Minute Win Over Henson Moore

U.S. Sen. Russell B. Long’s announcement that he would retire after 36 years in the upper chamber was unexpected, as he had been building

PHOTO GALLERY: The Final Four Hours Of The Special Session That Never Was

   

“Members, It Is 12 a.m.”

It’s called a photo finish for a reason, not that the House, Senate and Edwards Administration would need photographic evidence to help sort

VIDEO: Who’s The Man Behind The Tree?

When politicians want your money, the idea is bound to come up. "Don't tax you. Don't tax me. Tax the man behind the tree." But who is

The LaPolitics Report: Meet Monty

This episode features Monty Sullivan, the president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, who provides a political read

LaPolitics Weekly Special Edition: FISCAL CLIFFHANGER

THE RUNDOWN Weekend action slated at Capitol… Sunday is budget-tax day on Senate floor… Sales tax amendments doomed… But the rate is still

LaPolitics Weekly: THEY SAID IT

“I didn't write the Constitution. I’m just trying to follow it.” —Appropriations Chair Cameron Henry, during HB 1 floor debate “I’m trying

Major Moves In SOS Race: Free announces, Werner out & JNK wades in

Like he did during last year’s special election for state treasurer, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is picking sides again in the special election

FISCAL CLIFFHANGER: A Political Melodrama Told In Three Acts

FISCAL CLIFFHANGER A POLITICAL MELODRAMA TOLD IN THREE ACTS How a failed sales tax bill set the special session’s tone, bridged a deep

What The Heck Is John Alario Saying?

Have you ever listened closely to the words being said into the mic Senate President John Alario while he’s overseeing the business of the

SPONSORED: CGI Announces Major Louisiana Expansion

During his special session speech on May 22, Gov. John Bel Edwards, along with IT company CGI executive Dave Henderson, announced that CGI

#LA: John F. Jones & Social Media Advertising

“Social media is not magic. It’s just one of our many channels that we can use.” That’s the view of CenturyLink Public Policy and

JBE, Mitch & The Donald

This story was originally published in LaPolitics Weekly on May 18, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by

SPONSORED: Congratulations to Bruce Greenstein and LHC Group!

Congratulations to Bruce Greenstein on this week’s announcement that he will return to Louisiana to lead innovation at LHC Group as Chief

THE LaPOLITICS REPORT: Picard, Politics & Ponies

In our latest podcast episode of The LaPolitics Report, Tyron Picard of The Picard Group drops in for a conversation about a bygone era in

CAPITOL GAINS: At Home with Clay

 “This is what America wants to see.” That was the promise from a beer-toting Congressman Clay Higgins in this episode of Capitol

SPONSORED: The 106th First Lady’s Luncheon

The Picard Group was honored to attend the 106th First Lady’s Luncheon, honoring The First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump. Held on

IT’S PERSONAL

This story was originally published in LaPOLITICS Weekly on May 4, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by

THIS COULD BE YOU

You could say legislators in Illinois really dropped the ball when they failed to pass an operating budget for their state prior to the 2016

POD: Politics & Drilling, According To Briggs

In this episode of The LaPolitics Report, we talk to Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Gifford Briggs, who recently succeeded his