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Posted at 05:51 PM ET, 07/08/2011

With Anthony Weiner open seat, a missed opportunity for women

Anthony Weiner’s resignation created an open congressional seat that New York Democratic leaders hope to fill with Assemblyman David Weprin, passing over women such as Melinda Katz and Elizabeth Holtzman as their party’s nominee. (Seth Wenig - AP)
Once more it seems the opportunity for a woman to vie for a congressional seat has been passed onto a man. The New York Times reported Thursday that Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin has been tapped to run in the September special election that will determine who fills former Rep. Anthony Weiner's unexpired term. Nothing against Weprin, but this seemed like a good opportunity to boost the pathetic number of women who serve in Congress above 16 percent.

Weiner's Twitter caper, following on the heels of the scandals of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, inspired a robust conversation about why women make up such a small percentage of Congress. The press interviewed female political leaders about their views, and Christiane Amanpour was a champion on television for the cause. But it seems not to have taken roots.

In the Weiner replacement story, one woman was mentioned often: Melinda Katz. Katz, like Weprin, has served in both the New York State assembly and the city council. And they both fought a losing battle for NYC Comptroller in 2009.

Still, Weprin gets described in the New York Times as "a good soldier" and someone willing to make a "political sacrifice," since he would have to give up his assembly seat for a seat in Congress that may be eliminated in 2012. But is Katz, who is currently in the private sector, making any less sacrifice for public service, just because she wouldn't have a seat to give up?

And Katz wasn’t the only woman in the mix. Veteran politician Elizabeth Holtzman was also interested in serving; and as a former congresswoman, she presumably could have hit the ground running.

Female voters might come out in droves for a woman at this point. They are tired of the shenanigans. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who filled Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in New York, is running an active multistate campaign to get women off the sidelines. This could have been a good opportunity to give it a road test. Not to mention, not long ago there was a campaign to make every open political seat a woman's seat. How did that work for us?

It didn't.

It was moving us in the right direction, though. Daily I listen to the back and forth of those who are charged with securing our economic future, and I know what we’re missing: the voices of women.

Marie C. Wilson is founder and president emeritus of The White House Project, co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work ® Dayand author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World.


By  |  05:51 PM ET, 07/08/2011

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