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League of Women Voters Urge Female Students to Get Involved in Politics, Public Office

 

By Leslie Truluck

CREST HAVEN — Cape May County League of Women Voters is encouraging more women to get involved in politics. In doing so, the league held its first annual “Running & Winning” workshop for local junior and senior high school girls Oct. 28 at the Cape May Tech High School.
Young women learned the challenges and rewards of holding public office. They interviewed county officials and learned skills needed to run and win: networking, analyzing issues and public speaking.
Each group prepared and presented a mini campaign working with other young women from area high schools. Five mock mayoral campaign groups, with one political official and one league moderator, were tasked with selecting a candidate, campaign manager, speechwriter and publicist.
Some were not old enough to vote yet, but were prepared and polished to run for office.
“I love the red, white and blue, but we are going green,” Cindy Keenan of Ocean City said in her mock campaign speech for mayor of Greenville.
Jayne Snyder “Beach Girl for Mayor” of Ocean City rallied to “Protect and Plan.”
“Beach, Boards and Beautification,” were the priorities for Danielle DiPeso, a junior at Wildwood Catholic.
Alyssa Vogel, an Ocean City junior, slugged her campaign with “Maintaining Our Past While Building Our Future.”
Ocean City senior Amanda Catanoso’s team campaigned to create a “Shore Nice Town All Year Round.”
“I’m so excited that these bright young women will represent the next generation,” league member and event coordinator Corrine Robinson said.
“Caring for the community and the people in it seems to be the theme for why the officials got involved in politics,” League President Mary Conley told the Herald.
Robinson said she hopes to make the workshop an annual event for county female high school upperclassmen, to encourage young women’s interest in running for political office.
Who better to glean from than successful county female politicians and leaders?
Nine female county officials mentored 21 students from throughout the county.
The league chose the theme of running for mayor because so many attending officials are mayors, deputy mayors and councilwomen who could provide hands-on experience, Robinson said.
Attendees included County Clerk Rita Marie Fulginiti, Middle Township Deputy Mayor Susan DeLanzo, State Committeewoman Lynda Pagliughi, West Cape May Mayor Pamela Kaithern and Cape May Point Deputy Mayor Anita Van Heeswyk, who mentored students from Ocean City, Middle Township, Cape May Tech, Wildwood Catholic and Wildwood high schools.
Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters, who has been reelected four times, said her ‘golden nugget’ of advice is, “Surround your self with good people and know the issues. It’s not difficult to get up and talk to a room full of people, if you know what you’re talking about.”
Walters explained to students how all the issues are interconnected and affect each other in the budget process, from recreation, to taxes, to infrastructure.
“It’s interesting to hear the advice of other officials,” Ocean City Council President Susan Shepard said.
Avalon Councilwoman Nancy Hudanich and Wildwood Crest Deputy Mayor Joyce Gould showed students some of their campaign literature and flare from previous elections.
Gould displayed stickers that read, “It’s time to Re-Joyce,” from her reelection campaign.
Hudanich displayed pamphlets from her 1992 campaign.
“Both Republican and Democratic leaders came together non-partisan to help these young women take a step into the political arena,” Conley said. “Students really jumped in with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Ladies worked tirelessly through their lunch break on posters, speeches and slogans.
“This (workshop) has made me more inspired to vote and have my voice heard,” Cape May Tech senior Kylie Smith said.
“I’m beyond impressed with how the students have bonded, discussed, shared with each other,” Robinson said. “I’m thrilled with the response from the elected officials.”
“Students have fresh ideas and the innovation of their age group allows them to present things differently. They are very aware of green concepts and issues,” Hudanich said.
League members provided information about women’s overall political representation, which suggests that women are underrepresented. Women make up 52 percent of the voting age population but have disproportionate political representation.
In 2009, women hold 90 or 16.8 percent of the 535 seats in Congress, 17 of the 100 Senate seats and 73 (or 16.8 percent) of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
No women currently serve in New Jersey’s 15-member congressional delegation.
New Jersey has sent only five women to the U.S. House of Representatives and no women to the U.S. Senate. Nationally women hold 24.3 percent of all state legislative seats.
The state recently, for the first time ever, moved up from the bottom rankings to the top 10 for representation of women in the state legislatures. In New Jersey state legislature, women hold 10 of the 40 seats in the senate and 27 of the 80 seats in the Assembly, holding 30.8 percent of the 120 available seats.
“There’s really a disparity that needs to be remedied,” Conley said.
Therefore the league encourages more women to run for elected offices.
Contact Truluck at (609) 886-8600 ext. 24 or at: ltruluck@cmcherald.com.

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