A growing number of women are vying for seats in the Kentucky General Assembly this year.
Of the 220 candidates running for either the state House or Senate in the 2014 election cycle, about 20 percent are women.
That’s a five-point increase compared to four years ago when the same offices were up for a vote.
Observers credit organizations aimed at recruiting and training women to run for public office.
“We’ve graduated 85 women through the program and we’re training an additional 23 women this year,” says Jennifer Moore, board chair of Emerge Kentucky, a group dedicated to electing Democratic women.
Founded in 2009, Emerge announced over two dozen women who were in their program have filed for public office. Those include state legislative races along with several candidates vying for county and city offices.
But the increasing number of women running still falls well short when compared to the state’s female population.
Kentucky ranks 37th in terms of the number of women in its legislature compared to other states.
Moore, who is a former state Democratic Party chair, says getting more women interested is the first step in changing the lack of representation in the legislature.
“I think we’re going to continue to see women getting excited and our hope is that will change the face of Kentucky politics, and you’ll see those numbers increase,” says Moore. “And our hope would be that we won’t be at the bottom of the list anymore and we can be at the top of the list.”
Moore points out that U.S. Senate candidate Alison Ludergan Grimes is at the top of her party’s ticket, which she argues is having a galvanizing effect on women in the state.
But Republican women appear to be leading the charge in Kentucky’s legislative races even without a group as organized at recruitment and training as Emerge.
Of the women running in contested state legislative races this year, for example, nearly 60 percent are doing so under the GOP banner.
Carol Rogers is president of the Kentucky Federation for Republican Women. She says despite Democratic criticisms of a so-called “war on women” many women are flocking to her party.
“The Democrat Party is making that issue up,” she says. “They’ve created the ‘war on women’ and invented it to make it seem like Republicans are not supportive of females. That’s absolutely not true. In our party we’re encouraged to run for office. Our opinions are listened to and respected at the federal, state and local level.”
GOP officials are quick to highlight of the seven women running for the state Senate all but two are Republicans.
“Our women are capable. We really don’t need a special program to recruit and encourage them. They feel that from the people within our party,” says Rogers.
Emerge representatives point out the only woman running for Congress in Kentucky this year–Elisabeth Jensen—graduated through their 6-month training program.