Michelle Quist: Republican women in Utah are starting to step up

There’s no question there’s a dearth of Republican women in elected office in Utah. We have no women in executive offices – governor, treasurer, attorney general, etc. – no women in the federal delegation and only a handful of state legislators.

Out of eight positions, Utah’s House majority leadership team has no women. The House minority (Democrat) leadership team includes three women out of four positions.

Utah’s Senate majority leadership team includes one woman out of seven positions – Sen. Ann Millner as assistant majority whip. The Senate minority leadership includes three out of four women.

Of course there are a plethora of women running in next week’s municipal elections, but those races are nonpartisan. Having two women as candidates for Salt Lake City mayor is certainly worth celebrating, though.

But maybe things are looking up for Republican women. Mostly male delegates recently elected Candice Pierucci to replace Rep. John Knotwell, who resigned, in District 52 (Herriman).

Even more, an online Facebook post criticizing Pierucci for running for the position when she has a young baby at home received quick and certain condemnation from both male and female commenters. The comment was made on a post by the Utah Republican Party congratulating Pierucci on her election. To its credit, the party has since deleted the offensive comment.

The comment was the typical old and tired, purely sexist comment from old and tired get-off-my-lawn men:

“I hate to post this, but when will moms who choose to bring a child into the world realize their priority is to be a mom to her infant. Being a mom isn’t a part-time position.”


Let’s unpack his statement.

“I hate to post this.” Really? Do you really hate it? Because you easily could just not post it, and then you wouldn’t bring such hate into your day.

“Moms who choose to bring a child into the world.” Wait, is this a pro-choice Republican? Does this man believe that ultimately it is the woman who “chooses” to bring a baby into the world? Not likely.

If this isn’t a pro-choice sentiment, then, what exactly is he saying? Because it makes no sense that a woman would “choose” to bring a baby into the world, by having unprotected sex, but a man would not similarly “choose” to bring a baby into the world, by participating in that very same unprotected sex.

In other words, doesn’t a man also “choose” to bring a baby into the world? And therefore shouldn’t a man also be responsible to care for that baby? Is that man therefore also precluded from running for office? Of course not.

The “priority is to be a mom to her infant” – it sure is, just as a father’s priority is to be a father. The disconnect here is that being a mom and being an elected official aren’t mutually exclusive, just like you can be a father and an elected official at the same time.

Finally, “Being a mom isn’t a part-time position.” Isn’t that the truth. In fact, it’s not even a full-time position. It’s a 24/7 position. And maybe it’s time that our elected officials, especially Republicans, recognize that fact and provide some support.

What was most encouraging from this inane Facebook comment, though, was the quick and consistent pushback this commenter received for a similar post he made on his own page. He received over 100 comments, and most of them were not in support.

My favorite, from a man: “Quit being a sexist troll.”

Maybe Utah is ready to start electing Republican women. Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton hopes so. She just announced her candidacy for governor. If successful, she would be the first female on the Utah ballot for governor.

The first thing I heard after she announced was that she was positioning for a shot at the lieutenant governor spot. Do you know what I never heard about Jeff Burningham, also a candidate for governor? That he was angling for the No. 2 spot.

Winder Newton has more government experience than former Gov. Mike Leavitt had when he ran for governor, and won.

Utah women, especially Republican women, who choose to work or run for office or even hold volunteer community leadership positions in Utah face a definite double standard. But perhaps the tide is changing.

As Winder Newton says, electing Republican women in Utah may be an uphill battle that takes “blood, sweat, and a minivan full of gas,” but we’re ready.

Michelle Quist

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.