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New leadership course looks to bringing more women into politics

politicsCOLUMBUS — Organizers of a leadership course for college students say they’re trying to increase the number of women in Mississippi politics.

Twenty-six female students from in-state universities and community colleges are taking part this week in the bipartisan course at Mississippi University for Women.

Tomorrow, they are meeting at the state Capitol with Gov. Phil Bryant, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch and other officials, including Democratic state Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson and Republican state Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven.

Mississippi is one of four states that have never elected a woman to the U.S. House or Senate, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The others are Delaware, Iowa and Vermont.

Women make up 51 percent of Mississippi’s population and hold 17 percent of the seats in the state Legislature. Eight women are in the 52-member Senate, and 22 are the 122-member House.

Mississippi currently has two women in statewide elected office. Fitch, who lives in Madison, is in her first term as treasurer. Fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven is in her first term as commissioner of agriculture and commerce.

Amy Tuck of Maben was lieutenant governor from 2000 to 2008. She was first elected as a Democrat and switched to the GOP in late 2002.

The late Evelyn Gandy of Hattiesburg, who was a Democrat, was state treasurer 1960-64 and 1964-68, insurance commissioner 1972-76 and lieutenant governor 1976-80.

The leadership course for college women was developed by Rutgers and is sponsored by MUW and the Starkville-based Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership.

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