Women will outnumber men on Cape city council

Thursday, April 7, 2005

For the first time ever, women will outnumber men on the seven-member Cape Girardeau City Council thanks to victories Tuesday by two women candidates, including one who was propelled into office by a well-organized write-in campaign.

The city council will include four women and three men. Voters elected former councilwoman Loretta Schneider in Ward 4 and write-in candidate Debra Tracy in Ward 3. They join two other women on the council -- Evelyn Boardman and Marcia Ritter.

Schneider, the first women ever elected to the city council, served on the council from 1981 to 1986.

Schneider said women candidates were uncommon in Cape Girardeau two decades ago. "At that time, too many women were waiting for their husbands to tell them how to vote," she said.

That's changed, she said. "I think women have become more independent thinkers."

Schneider said women bring a more conciliatory approach to problem solving than do men.

"We have learned in raising families how much compromise is involved and how much we have to listen to all sides."

Schneider said she's looking forward to serving on the council. "I think it will be interesting to see the different balance it brings to the council."

But Boardman doubts having a majority of women on the council will make a difference when it comes to deciding city issues. She said council members typically think alike on city government issues regardless of gender.

"When you put them in a political situation, both minds to tend to work pretty much alike," Boardman said.

Surprising victory

Tracy's surprising victory in the Ward 3 race contributed to the gender shift on the council.

Tracy, who filed for the council on March 25 as a write-in candidate more than two months after the filing period had closed, credited the efforts of friends and neighbors in her victory.

Tracy had little over a week to campaign in a race that included two other candidates -- businessmen Stan Wicks and R. Todd McBride.

"There was no master plan because there was no time to make one," she said.

Her campaign printed three banner signs and 2,000 fliers. Tracy said she relied on supporters in the ward to sell her candidacy to the voters.

"I am just so excited," Tracy said a day after her victory.

She said the endorsements of Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle and former state representative Mary Kasten helped sell her candidacy to voters.

Write-in candidates rarely win, said Southeast Missouri State University political science professor Dr. Russell Renka.

Write-in candidates have a better chance of winning in local elections, where voters have a better chance of knowing the candidates, he said.

Renka said Tracy won because she offered an alternative to the two other candidates.

Tracy comes into office knowing that she had some committed voters in her corner, Renka said. "It showed that people went out of their way to vote for her," he said.


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