Year in Review 2018: State and County Reflect National Trend of Electing More Women

Both Door County and the state of Wisconsin have followed the national trend of electing more women to public office.

Perhaps one of the biggest wins for women in Door County came in November when voters elected Lt. Tammy Sternard to replace outgoing Sheriff Steve Delarwelle, rather than Delarwelle’s chief deputy, Patrick McCarty.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, 1,875 women served in the 50 state legislatures in 2018, making up 25.4 percent of all state legislators nationwide.

That jumped to 2,088 women – or 28.3 percent – in 2019 with wins in the November election. CAWP broke that down to 1,411 Democrats, 657 Republicans and 20 with other party designations.

“This is the largest increase in women’s representation in state legislatures we’ve seen in some time, after more than a decade of relative stagnation,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh in a post-election press release. “The only question that remains is whether 2018 was a one-off or a new norm.”

When voters elected Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet to the Wisconsin Supreme Court last April, it gave a 6-1 majority to women on the state’s highest appellate court. Justice Daniel Kelly is the sole male member of the court. However, last summer 84-year-old Justice Shirley Abrahamson – the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and also the first to serve as chief justice – announced she would leave office at the end of her term next summer. Women represent 19 percent of circuit court judges in the state.

Democratic women achieved gender parity in the state Assembly after the November vote, with 18 of the 36 Democratic seats in the 99-member Assembly. There are nine Republican women in the Assembly.

Nine women serve in the 33-member state Senate – seven Democrats and two Republicans – but one of the GOP senators, Assistant Majority Leader Leah Vukmir, will not be returning. She decided not to run to represent the 5th Senate District again and instead ran a failed campaign against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Earlier this year Erin Forrest, the director of Emerge Wisconsin, an organization that helps Democratic women get into politics, said municipal boards are where the lack of women is really apparent, and that pretty much holds true in Door County – with the exception of the Sturgeon Bay Common Council, which has a four-to-three majority of women. That could change in the April election because one of those women, Barbara Allmann, has decided not to run. And although the Door County Board of Supervisors has seen an increase in women elected to that board, they remain in the minority, with only nine of 21 seats.

Here is a breakdown of other municipal boards:

Baileys Harbor: Two of five members are women.

Brussels: Three-member, all-male board.

Clay Banks: Three-member, all-male board.

Town of Egg Harbor: Five-member, all-male board.

Village of Egg Harbor: Three of five members are women.

Village of Ephraim: One of four members is a woman.

Town of Forestville: Three-member, all-male board.

Village of Forestville: One of the five-member board is a woman.

Gardner: One of the four-member board is a woman.

Gibraltar: One of the five-member board is a woman.

Jacksonport: Three-member, all-male board.

Liberty Grove: Two of the five-member board are women.

Sevastopol: One of the five-member board is a woman.

Sister Bay: One of the seven-member board is a woman.

Town of Sturgeon Bay: One of the three-member board is a woman.

Union: Three-member, all-male board.

Washington Island: One of the four-member board is a woman.

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