Indiana lags behind other states for women in public office

Jackie Walorski (Photo supplied/U.S. House of Representatives)

(AP) Women are underrepresented in elected office throughout the U.S. but Indiana lags behind other states in several respects.

The state ranks 34th in the country for the percentage of women serving in the Legislature. It has only one female mayor of a mid-sized city or larger, and is one of eight states who have had neither a female governor nor a female U.S. senator.

Indiana currently has two female U.S. representatives, the first time in state history. One of them, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, is one of three candidates vying to replace Gov. Mike Pence as the GOP nominee for governor this year, along with Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita.

Here’s a look at the number of women who have served in public office in Indiana:


Women make up nearly 21 percent of the Indiana General Assembly, holding 31 of the 150 seats. There are nine female state senators and 22 state representatives. Colorado has the highest percentage of women in a legislature at 42 percent, while Wyoming has the lowest at 14.1 percent.



Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is the only female mayor of a city of 30,000 or more in Indiana. Indiana’s four largest cities — Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend — have never had female mayors.



Brooks and fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski were each elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2014. Both were seeking re-election this year, but Brooks withdrew to compete instead for the governor nominee spot that Pence abandoned when he was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate.

Indiana has only had five other female members of Congress in its history: Virginia Ellis Jenckes (D), 1933-1939; Cecil Murray Harden (R), 1949-1959; Katie Hall (D), 1982-1985; Jill Long Thompson (D), 1991-1995; and Julia Carson (D), 1997-2007.



Indiana is among 22 states that has never sent a female U.S. Senator to Washington.



Indiana is among 23 states where a woman has never been governor. Long Thompson, the former congresswoman, became the first female to earn a major party’s nomination for governor in 2008 when she won the Democratic primary but was defeated by incumbent Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.



Justices on the Indiana Supreme Court are appointed, not elected. Loretta Rush was sworn in as Indiana’s first female chief justice in 2014. At the time she was appointed to the state’s high court in 2012, the only other states without women on their highest courts were Idaho and Iowa. The only other woman to serve on Indiana’s highest court was Myra Selby from 1995 to 1999.

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