CARLSBAD — Several national news outlets have claimed a “pink wave” is coming.
As more women are running in local, state and federal elections than ever before, Carlsbad is a prime example of the unprecedented rise in female candidates across the country.
From city positions such as mayor, council member and clerk to the Carlsbad Unified School District board of trustees, 11 women are vying for those seats. In total, women represent 78½ percent of the candidates this year, compared to just three men.
Carlsbad elected the first woman, Lena Sutton, to the City Council in 1952 and later elected Mary Casler as the city’s first mayor in 1982, according to city documents.
In all, just 11 women have been elected to the City Council in the last 66 years.
This year, however, will see the list of women who are elected in competitive races grow by a minimum of one and possibly two, with the chance of the city’s second female mayor.
Priya Bhat-Patel and Corrine Busta are competing for the seat in District 3; and Linda Breen, Tracy Carmichael and Barbara Hamilton all running in District 1, with David McGee representing the lone-male candidate.
Councilwoman Cori Schumacher is running for mayor against incumbent Matt Hall. Barbara Engelson, meanwhile, is running unopposed for city clerk, and Craig Lindholm is also running unopposed for city treasurer.
And while 11 women in total are running for local elected office, many have said gender is not a qualifying factor. Instead, those candidates champion creativity, innovation and collaborative efforts, especially when it comes to philosophical or political ideological differences.
Schumacher said she believes many women are joining in response to a rise of several social movements.
“I do feel that I am a part of an ongoing movement among women to enter elected leadership positions in the public sector,” the mayoral candidate said. “While this movement has been increasing over the years, this year in particular has seen a greater number of women running, coupled with increased attention paid by the media due to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement.”
Burkholder, meanwhile, championed the fact women have more skin in the game. Whether it’s local politics, business or other industries, more women are rising through the ranks.
“I believe more women are involved in politics because we are more involved in general,” she said. “When female business owners like me have a stake in the game, we become more engaged with the leaders who develop policy that affect us.”
Bhat-Patel said women have been marginalized in many areas, including politics, but they are just as capable as their male counterparts in bringing fresh, innovative ideas to the table.
Additionally, many women in Carlsbad are running campaigns based on more transparency and local control. In some instances, those local control policies run counter from the state level and may run in opposition of a candidate’s party’s position.
Bhat-Patel, who will earn her doctorate degree in public health later this year, said it is important to listen to residents to ensure a high quality of life.
“Transparency is essential in any relationship and as an elected official I will be a champion of open government,” she explained. “Listening to residents’ concerns and making sure they are heard is the key.”
Tracy Carmichael, who is running for the City Council seat in District 1 against Linda Breen and Barbara Hamilton, said the movement is great for all women. And although she was elected to the Carlsbad Unified School District board of trustees in the 1990s, she said these new voices will make a difference.
“It’s my belief women’s voices will resonate change though they must first recognize their own strength and confidence to make a difference in the lives of others and in their communities,” she said. “Today, I have found my internal strength to stand tall and I will make a difference.”
Hamilton said the strength of women comes from their willingness to collaborate and reach across party lines to find the best solution. Like Bhat-Patel and Breen, she also champions a more open government, yet said basic civility is missing from some of today’s current leaders.
“I feel that today some of these basic values are being undermined with the current political divisiveness among our leaders. I hardly recognize us at times,” Hamilton
Breen, however, said she is not running due any movement, but because there is a need for people with principle to hold office. However, she is aware the #MeToo movement has been a powerful tool supporting more women for office, but her goal is to bring more “responsiveness” and “absolute integrity” to the city council.
“In the last couple of years, there has been an explosion of activism, with many first-time candidates,” she said, adding 80 percent of the council the past several years has been men. “At the same time, the ‘Me, too’ movement has empowered many women to speak out and to try to balance political power.”
Kathy Rallings, who is running unopposed in Area 5 for the school district’s board of trustees, said women are tired of being marginalized. However, she, like others, noted gender should not be the only qualifying factor for a candidate.
“I think women are seeing their issues dismissed and marginalized within the current system and they are asking themselves, ‘if not me, who?’ and ‘if not now, when?’” she rhetorically asked. “I applaud more women running for office, but I don’t think gender should be the only criteria women look for in a candidate. I do not believe their gender alone will help to improve upon the issues facing women today.”
Women in Carlsbad, and around the country, are becoming a more dominate and vocal voice in the political landscape.
According to a Bloomberg report in May 2018, 527 women ran in national congressional races, a 67-percent jump from 2016, while the New York Times reported last month a record 200 women won their House primaries.
City of Carlsbad
Incumbent Matt Hall and Councilwoman Cori Schumacher
Linda Breen, Tracy Carmichael, Barbara Hamilton and David McGee
Priya Bhat-Patel and Corrine Busta
Barbara Engleson (unopposed)
Craig Lindholm (unopposed)
Incumbent Veronica Williams and Dr. Melanie Burkholder
Claudine Jones (unopposed)
Kathy Rallings (unopposed)