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Female Politicians Face Challenges in Fundraising

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, left, and State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, spoke to supporters on June 25, 2014, the one-year anniversary of Sen. Davis's filibuster.

There seems to be a clear line dividing the Texas governor and lieutenant governor candidates this election year: girls on one side, boys on the other. But these gender differences may be more than trivial. They can affect the candidates’ experiences running for office. Across party lines, women engage in more grassroots campaigning and, according to some women’s organizations, have a harder time asking for money.

“Women need to be recruited,” said Linda Young, President of the National Women’s Political Caucus. “In general, women don’t just wake up and say, ‘I’m going to run for office.’ Men do.”

One of the biggest challenges for female candidates comes in raising funds for their campaign, which can cost millions of dollars. There are many national and local organizations that provide campaign support for female candidates.

Young says one of the biggest hurdles for female politicians is simply asking for money. She says they tend not to ask for as large a donation as men and that in general, female candidates get a larger number of small contributions. They have to host more events to come up with the same dollar figure that a male candidate might raise in just one. Amy Clark, Vice President of the Texas Republican Party, says that while women do turn out smaller dollar donations, the idea that they can’t make the ask is an outdated perception.

“I believe that it just comes more down to the candidate,” said Clark. “As a female candidate, it is very important to come in with a position of strength and solution.”

Patsy Woods Martin, Executive Director of Annie’s List, says that research shows female candidates can be better fundraisers than men. She argues women tend to be better listeners and prefer to support other female candidates. However, she says, women are hesitant about fundraising at the outset.

“Probably culturally and historically, we don’t have as much experience," says Woods Martin. "We’ve got a long way to go as far as women actually being involved in the political process.”

Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte turned to social media this election, asking for donations as small as $5. Their GOP male counterparts started their campaigns with more money. Republicans also have a more established fundraising effort – thanks to their dominance in statewide politics.

Campaign finance reports released last week showed Wendy Davis’ campaign had spent $36 million throughout the entire race, while Greg Abbott spent $46.8 million.

The result of their efforts will be seen tomorrow night.

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