Ed Turanchik believes that in today’s modern political climate, women have an advantage, particularly among Democratic voters.
Turanchik was asked what surprised him the most in the 2019 mayoral campaign. At first, he answered that Dick Greco Jr. entering the race “changed the dynamics.” Turanchik wasn’t expecting Greco to run, but the son of a former longtime mayor in the race “changed the calculus.”
Then, he pivoted to gender politics.
“You’ve got six guys and one woman, which is the single biggest fact looming over this race,” Turanchik said, a reference to Jane Castor. “At least among Democrats, there’s a gender bias as to man vs. woman. A woman gets a bigger bounce.”
Asked to clarify his remarks considering women have been fighting for years to even come close to equality in the political realm, Turanchik dug in.
“I think in today’s environment, certainly in the Democratic Party, women have an advantage. I don’t know the reason for it, it just is,” Turanchik said.
Turanchik specifically mentioned last year’s County Judge Group 2 race between Lisa Allen and Greg Green. On paper, Green should have walked to an easy victory. He raised $170,000 to Allen’s $31,000 and picked up all of the major endorsements, but Allen won the race easily by a margin of 10 percentage points.
And his statement doesn’t surprise political scientist Susan McManus.
“I don’t think it’s all that unusual for anyone to say that,” said McManus, Professor Emeritus at USF. “It’s reality at the moment. You have so much attention on successful women running that times have changed. Women are running the table, that’s the presumption.”
Women have been surging in politics. The 2018 midterm elections saw a record number of women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where 102 women now serve — higher than ever before in history. Women broke records last year for the number of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial wins.
Still, less than 24 percent of Congress is controlled by women — a strong male majority by any standard.
In Tampa, that’s no different. There’s just one woman — Yvonne Yolie Capin — on the City Council. Of all seven districts that are on the ballot this year, only four have women running. Of the 24 candidates, only four are women.
Looking at Florida, it’s not all sunshine and roses for women in politics. Gwen Graham lost in the gubernatorial primary to Andrew Gillum.
Nationally, women saw the ultimate glass ceiling unshattered when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.
Turanchik acknowledged the “advantage” he mentioned wasn’t necessarily a prevailing theme.
“I think it’s just a factor,” he said.
Castor called the statement insulting.
“Jane Castor has been a public servant in this community for over 30 years, with a distinguished career that spans everything from beat cop to police chief to a mentor for women and young girls,” said Castor’s campaign manager, Tim Wagner. “To suggest that her only qualification is her gender is demeaning and insulting not only to her, but to all women.”
After this story published, EMILY’s List also expressed outrage.
“Mr. Turanchik insults and diminishes Jane Castor’s 30 years of experience and service as a manager and chief of police, reducing her campaign’s strong support to her gender instead of her impressive credentials,” the group wrote in a statement. “At EMILY’s List, we support women who are far and away the best candidates for the job. Clearly we made the right choice by endorsing Jane Castor for Tampa Mayor.”
Mike Suarez, a current City Council member running in the seven-way mayoral race, said Tampa politics do not revolve around gender.
“Hillsborough County has always been ground zero for women being elected to office,” Suarez said, evoking names like Phyllis Busansky, Betty Castor and Pat Frank. “So many people were leaders and have come through in a much worse atmosphere for women candidates. I think candidates are treated even keel based on ideas. I don’t think a woman’s ideas are taken more seriously based on them being a woman.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or not, [voters] will look at your ideas and whether they match your own for where you want your city to go,” Suarez added.