Election 2020

California Dem: Female Congressional Candidates Held to ‘Different Standard’

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) administers the House oath of office to Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Zach Gibson)

WASHINGTON – Describing her experience running for Congress, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) said female congressional candidates are held to a “different standard” and added that many people seeking public office do not realize they have to be “full-time” fundraisers.

“It was harder as a female candidate because of the questions you get sometimes. You’re set to a different standard. Still today, women still contribute less money to women than they do to men, sometimes, and so, I think there’s a challenge there. For me, I think it was a different dynamic. It was that a lot of people had worked with my opponent and he was promised the seat,” Barragán said during a Center for American Progress Action Fund discussion last week, “Beyond the Ambition Gap: Challenging the Systems That Keep Women Off Ballots and Out of Office.”

“He ran for the seat in 2012 and was told if you drop out of the race you will be next in line next time. And that’s why you had a rare opportunity in my race, where there was only one guy really running and then, after I got in, we were the only two that raised any real money,” she added.

Barragán, who last November defeated former state Sen. Isadore Hall for the 44th District seat vacated by Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), said congressional candidates have to work put in long hours raising cash in order to get elected.

“Most candidates don’t realize what you really do as a candidate, especially when you don’t have a fundraising base, is you become a full-time fundraiser. I was in the call room Monday through Friday from 9 to 6 and that became my job,” she said.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she faced challenges with press coverage during her race.

“I found the media, though, to be particularly difficult in my race and I found it in subtle ways. It wasn’t always open,” she said during the discussion.

Jayapal explained that she was the only female candidate in her congressional primary and the general election campaign. She said that one of the local news outlets published a feature story that included long biographies for each of her male opponents in comparison to her profile.

“Even though I was in the minority in the state Senate in just a first term, when it got to my profile, it said she’s a vociferous debater on the floor, which to me says, ‘angry brown women screams a lot,’ or something not that helpful,” she said.

Jayapal recalled the reporter who wrote the feature telling her he had a paragraph in the piece that focused on her legislative accomplishments but the editors had cut it out of the article.

“That kind of thing happened quite a bit and it’s probably the first time I felt it so strongly, but it definitely operated and I think it was both race and gender. But I think it was also the fact that I’ve been a really strong progressive advocate for a long time,” Jayapal said.