By Jessica Roose
In 1893, the first woman in North Dakota was elected to serve in a statewide office. While plenty of women have been in office since then, many would say there haven`t been nearly enough. In 1993, five women were serving in a statewide office position at the same time and since then, the number has been on the decline.
Heidi Heitkamp and Pam Gulleson are hoping to head to Washington DC next year to fill seats in both the Senate and the House. If they win the election, it would be the first time a woman was elected to either position in North Dakota.
"When you look at where we are in this country and the things that we need and believe need to be done, I think more women are stepping up to the plate," Heitkamp said.
And they seem to be, this year five women are running for statewide offices. Besides Heitkamp and Gulleson, Ellen Chaffee is running for Lieutenant Governor, Kelly Schmidt for State Treasurer and Kirsten Baesler for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
ND Women`s Network Executive Director Renee Stromme is glad more women are running and says it benefits the state and country to have them in office.
"I don`t want to paint the picture as if men don`t bring valuable skills. But we are missing out on half of the population if we`re not hearing women`s voices," she said.
Stromme says many times women won`t run unless asked because often they don`t realize what they can bring to the office.
"A lot of it is timing, if you have small children or elderly parents. The responsibilities that you are tugged at and pulled with through out the different courses in your life that really is a challenge. And its about balancing all of those different pieces," Schmidt said.
Stromme says it is important that young girls see women hold these positions and realize they really can grow up to be whatever they want.
Stromme says the North Dakota Women`s Network will be holding a event in Grand Forks on May 21 to help coach women who are running or planning to run for office in the future.