Nevada among states with most female legislators |

Nevada among states with most female legislators

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS – Nevada ranks in the top 10 in the nation for the number of female legislators it elected this year, according to a new study by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Nevada had hovered among the top five states for several years, peaking at No. 2 in 1999, but the number of female legislators slipped to 18 after the 2002 elections.

This year, 21 female legislators will serve in the 2005 legislative session, meaning 33.3 percent of the state’s legislators are women.

The state Senate lost one woman with the defeat of Sen. Ann O’Connell, R-Las Vegas, in the Republican primary.

Six new women will join the ranks of the Assembly, but women picked up a net of four seats because one open seat already was held by a woman and another open seat previously held by a woman was picked up by a man.

The new female Assemblywomen will be Francis Allen, R-Las Vegas; Heidi Gansert, R-Reno; Susan Gerhardt, D-Henderson; Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas; Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City; and Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said women can be the most determined and committed campaigners. She added that women with families can be reluctant to run, especially if they have small children.

The Legislature needs more women and minorities to bring a different perspective, said Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas. She said the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of fielding candidates who normally couldn’t afford to run for office.

Single mothers, for example, couldn’t handle the Legislature’s small paychecks, Giunchigliani said.

Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said young women also worry about whether or not they will be taken seriously.

Women hold several leadership positions in the Legislature. Besides Titus, Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, serves as Assembly minority leader and Giunchigliani will serve as speaker pro temp.

Four of the 10 standing committees in the Assembly will be headed by a woman this year, while only one of the nine standing committees in the Senate will be headed by a woman – Cegavske will act as chairwoman of the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Nationally, the number of female legislators remained about the same as last year. Maryland and Colorado elected the most women – 34 percent of their state legislatures are female.