Much has been written of late about how there are currently no women in statewide office in Kansas. When I first decided to run for the House, I was a young mother and business owner. I was immersed in the challenges that face small businesses and the obstacles of fostering a faith-centered family in a culture of moral relativism.
As I canvassed my community and searched for someone to run in the open seat, I didn’t stop to think about whether it should be a man or a woman, and I didn’t check statistics to see if I could fill a void of female elected officials.
I didn’t run because I was looking for more to do. I didn’t run because I thought I was the best or the only person who could bring solutions, dialogue and depth to the table. I didn’t run because politics were easier to navigate or things were less polarized back then, or because of a glass ceiling I wanted to break; it had already been broken.
I ran because I am a person interested in all of the issues, and because of my desire to do what I can to better my community. I ran because I could, and I won because I cared.
Kansas has a proud history of women who have broken the glass ceiling, leading at both the state and federal levels, well before the national trend ticked upward. We have an equally proud history of men who have defied odds and led our state and nation in times of difficulty.
It seems to me Kansas is less about trends and more about producing people willing to serve. It is also more concerned with solutions than a candidate’s gender.
Twenty-five years ago, I wasn’t interested in whether or not the Senate president would be addressed as “madam” or “mister.” I doubt that young people dreaming about their future are concerned about the breakdown of men and women serving in elected office.
There is much talk of downward trends, the polarization of politics, and about gender equality in elected office. It is defeatist and demeaning to all who engage in the political arena.
You think women are politically disenfranchised because it’s difficult? I encourage you to attend a PTA meeting where you’ll find that’s clearly not the case. Leaders aren’t looking to follow trends; they are the ones willing to defy them.
The Kansas Senate didn’t elect me because I am a woman; senators elected me because they determined I am the best person for the job.
Leaders look for solutions and, thankfully, don’t check a gender box as a prerequisite.
Are there fewer women serving in statewide elected office today? Yes. But we have leaders in spades, and my vote and the vote of other Kansans will always go to the person who advocates for our values, and is best qualified for the job.
Susan Wagle of Wichita is president of the Kansas Senate.