Gendered Pathways to Power
Identifying the Role of County Party Chairs in the Candidate Recruitment Process of Pennsylvania’s Local Elective Offices
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has historically fared poorly in terms of the proportion of women serving in its governing bodies. After a historic year of women in politics in 2018, Pennsylvania increased its proportion of women serving in the state legislature from 19% to 26%, which is still far from parity. Why are women so underrepresented? Political scientists have tested various variables: women’s lack of political ambition, negative gatekeeping by political parties, and gender stereotypes negatively impacting female candidates, just to name a few. This paper focuses on the role that county party chairs and vice-chairs play in recruiting female candidates to run for political office in Pennsylvania. In this article I ask: what do the recruitment efforts look like on the ground and how are the recruitment efforts gendered? In terms of recruitment efforts, I expect the stronger county party to have its leaders pull from informal networks that are extensions of the party leaders themselves. On the other hand, I expect weak county parties to cast a wide net for candidate recruitment and allow candidates to self-identify, which I call the “volunteer” model. I use interview data of county party chairs in order to understand the structure of candidate recruitment in Pennsylvania and the impact it may have on candidate selection.
Copyright © by The Pennsylvania Political Science Association
ISSN 2469-7672 (online)