- Michael D. Pitman Staff Writer
The second question asked during the Butler County GOP’s Statehouse recommendation meeting Thursday evening has upset some Butler County leaders.
Ann Becker, the State GOP Central Committeewoman representing Butler County, was the only woman seeking the county party’s recommendation in the race to succeed outgoing Ohio Rep. Margy Conditt, R-Liberty Twp. She was asked, “How would you handle the workload and time commitment of a state (representative) while your children are still in school and require a lot of your time?”
Becker, of Liberty Twp., told the Journal-News she was “extremely disappointed” in the question.
“As a mother, I’m perfectly suited for politics — tough, organized and able to watch what’s happening,” she said. “I was extremely disappointed in (Central Committee) Chairman (Chris) Wunnenberg singling me out as the only woman and mother asking for the recommendation and disappointed in my fellow candidates for not standing up for me.”
Wunnenberg, who moderated the recommendation meeting for the GOP’s members in the 52nd Ohio House District, said he “didn’t do a lot of censoring of the questions.” The anonymous questions were submitted by the party’s members voting on the recommendation.
Wunnenberg said he only censored duplicate questions.
Wunnenberg said not knowing who asked the questions, he said he didn’t know if it came from one of Becker’s supporters asking “a softball” question, or from one of the other candidates’ supporters posing a “gotcha” question.
“I thought she answered it very well,” Wunnenberg said.
Becker’s response to the question: “I do have three kids, my husband is a very helpful husband, I’ve got a daughter who drives and I think I’ll be able to manage. I’m very hands-on with my kids, but I can do this, too.”
Cedarville University Political Science Professor Mark C. Smith said it was “unfortunate” the question was asked of the only female candidate and not of her male counterparts.
“It is built on two questionable assumptions,” he said. “One, that male candidates share no obligations toward their families, and, two, that particular characteristics — sex, race, ethnicity — somehow limit a candidate’s ability to represent an entire constituency.”
Smith said he would never argue one’s personal life is irrelevant in the political arena as voters should consider the full range of the person when debating on whom to support, “but these aspects of the individual must surely be the least important considerations.”
Xavier University Political Science Chair Mack Mariani said it was “problematic that the question was only asked to the female candidate for a host of reasons.”
“We don’t live in the age of ‘Mad Men’ anymore,” he said. “Women balance family and work responsibilities all the time in the modern world. A question like this also disrespects the male candidates by ignoring the commitment they have to their own children and households.”
Out of the 99 Statehouse members, 24 (including Conditt who’s resignation is effective today) are women. Six of the 33 Ohio senators are women.
Ohio Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, was not at the recommendation meeting, but was furious to hear that only Becker was asked about being able to manage being a legislator and mother. She said Wunnenberg should have either not asked the question, or opened it up to the other candidates, as the question “implies that a woman is incapable of serving in public office because she is a mother.”
“(The question) gives the impression that the Butler County Republican Party is led by a person who has an outdated, sexist attitude,” Keller said. “To indicate that a woman is unable to juggle multiple responsibilities is something straight out of the 1950’s. No man would ever be asked this same question, as was proven at the meeting.”
Keller also said Butler County also has “a number of very qualified female judges and county officials who are well able to fulfill a number of duties simultaneously.”
Butler County Democratic Party Chair Jocelyn Bucaro is equally as “furious” a question was asked to the only female candidate seeking the GOP’s recommendation.
“This is clearly an example the attitudes that plagues the Grand Old Party,” she said. “Shame on the person who asked the question and shame on the GOP leaders who did not shut that line of questioning down.”