Jenna Wadsworth—Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture—retweeted a post by a supporter asking people to stop saying women “aren’t electable.” Wadsworth added to the tweet, “I’m tired of having to clapback at men (& some women [weary face emoji]) who are writing (& saying) this sh!t [sic] to or about me. Honestly, I don’t have time for that. I’ve got an election to win so plz [sic] act like you’ve got some sense.”
Wadsworth appeared to be referring to an exchange earlier that day on Twitter in which a Democratic activist stated that he had not voted for Wadsworth in the Democratic primary because he didn’t think she was as electable as Walter Smith, who he listed as a farmer. Wadsworth responded saying, “It was Smith’s 3rd attempt running for this office. If he was ‘more electable,’ perhaps we’d have a Democrat in that seat by now.”
Wadsworth will face incumbent Commissioner Steve Troxler. Troxler was first elected to the seat in 2000 and has held the seat since being elected again in 2004. In 2016 he received one of the highest single-seat vote tallies in the state with 2,524,445 votes cast in his favor. Jenna Wadsworth currently serves as a Soil and Water Commissioner in Wake County. She has been endorsed by Emily’s List, NC AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Votes- South Atlantic, as well as other organizations.
The electability of women has been a recurring point of discussion for Democrats in the 2020 election cycle. One of the most prominent examples was a back and forth between Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders during a Democratic presidential primary debate. The topic has been the subject of articles as early as August 2019 in an article Li Zhou wrote for Vox, and again more recently in March in an article Julie Kohler wrote for The Nation. In her article for Vox, Zhou wrote that the caution surrounding female candidates, “[is] a fear driven by Clinton’s recent defeat…and longstanding skepticism of women in politics…”
2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, and of the election of Lillian Exum Clement, the first woman ever to serve in the North Carolina State Legislature. In 1921, the year after Clement’s election, Kate Burr Johnson became the first woman to lead a statewide department when she was appointed the State Commissioner of Public Welfare. In 1992 Eva Clayton became the first woman in North Carolina to serve in Congress, and in 1996 Elaine Marshall became the first woman elected to statewide office when she won the race for Secretary of State. However, earlier that year Janice Faulkner was appointed to that same seat by Gov. Jim Hunt to fulfill the remaining term of Rufus Edmisten.