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More women candidates sought for Buffalo government

There's a renewed push to increase number of women holding elected office in the city, Erie County.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There's a record number of women holding seats in Congress, but the same can't really be said about government here in Buffalo.

So now there's a new push to increase the number of women holding elected office in the city and Erie County.

If you look at Buffalo City and Erie County governments, there's a significant political point, according to Diana Cihak of the WomenElect political training program.

"Between the city and the county, there are only three women elected to political office right now ... if you don't include the judicial seats or school board," she said.

Even though they make up half the population, there are no women currently serving on the nine-member Common Council. The last left in 2014.

It's a stark contrast with prominent women in power in other upstate communities and even at the state and federal levels. But why is that not the case in Buffalo?

Cihak says, "I think there's a lot of internal politics that don't bring women to the table in the way that a lot of the men step up and do. And so women have been left out of the process."      

So the non-partisan effort called WomenElect was launched by Cihak and others to actively recruit potential female candidates and support them.

"There needs to be an infrastructure in place that really brings women in, that shows them the ropes," she said. "Women want to be confident about what they're gonna do, how they're gonna govern, how they're gonna get into office."

While the local focus of WomenElect is on Buffalo Common Council and the county legislature, there's also an overall effort to attract women of a much younger generation in politics.

First Amendment First Vote was started in 2018 as a non-partisan program. It provides high school girls in Western New York with practical political know-how by inviting current women politicians to discuss their experiences with the students.    

Karen King, Executive Director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, says, "It's been almost 100 since women won the right to vote, and we know that we are nowhere near gender parity in elected office, so we have work to do. And part of that work means engaging young women as soon as possible."

Fifty girls from high schools across Erie County will take part in the next First Amendment First Vote seminar set for March.  


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