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Carly Zapata is a Santa Fe public schools teacher who recently completed her master's degree at St. John's College. While Zapata, 33, stands to earn more money with an advanced degree, women in New Mexico with those credentials are earning a lot less than men at a similar education level, according to Census estimates released last month.
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Credit Senator Crystal Diamond.
Female candidates defeated or replaced male officeholders in four districts, giving women a numerical advantage. It will be a first for a body that has long been dominated by men.
To this day, the House has never had a female speaker. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, who will return to her role as majority whip next year.
While Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, is expected to retain the speakership, all three of the other leadership positions among Democrats will be held by women. Only five House committees this year are chaired by women, but they include two of the most important, Judiciary, led by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup.
For young girls coming up, it is very different. They can look around and see people who look like them. She said the change has influenced the way the Legislature looks at the state and responds to its problems.
The main reason why women claimed more seats this year is because they ran in more races. There were 61 female candidates vying for the 70 House seats. And, while Democrats had a solid majority with 34 female candidates, there were also 23 Republican women on the ballot this year.
In the Senate races, there were 15 Republican female candidates on the ballot this year, compared to just 12 for the Democrats. Crystal Diamond was the only female challenger to break through on the Republican side when she claimed a seat that John Arthur Smith has held for 32 years.
Smith lost to Neomi Martinez Parra in the Democratic primary, clearing the way for Diamond to become both the first Republican and the first woman to hold the seat. Diamond said she and Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, have started a new group called New Mexico Rise to recruit, train and support women with a pro-business background from both parties who want to run for office. She said female officeholders often share similar priorities, such as health, education and family issues, and are more willing to work across party lines.
She and fellow incoming Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, a Silver City Democrat, are working together on legislation to improve health care in rural parts of the state.
I hope they look at this new Legislature and are empowered to run for office in any capacity that they want. When sworn in, she will become the first openly lesbian senator from southern New Mexico. She said her sexual orientation was never an issue this year in her race in the general election against Republican Charles Wendler.
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To recognize these powerful women and in commemoration of the th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women nationwide the legal right to vote, the USA TODAY Network is naming 10 American women from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, who have made ificant contributions to their respective states and country as Women of the Century.