Inspiring More Women To Run, Make A Difference
Much post-election commentary has focused on Democrats’ failure to fully wrest control of Congress from Republican majorities, but last Tuesday’s voting heralded broader change that doesn’t show up in congressional races alone. Nationally, and in Pennsylvania especially, women voters and candidates asserted themselves, ensuring changes in governance, politics and future elections. The current 18-member Pennsylvania congressional delegation is exclusively male. But in January it will include four women — Susan Wild, Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Chrissy Houlahan — all Democrats and all from the suburban counties around Philadelphia. That populous region increasingly has been decisive in statewide elections. The Democratic women’s victories there portend change greater than their own elections, indicating that it will be far more difficult for President Donald Trump to carry Pennsylvania in 2020 than it was in 2016 when he won by about 44,000 votes, or 0.7 percentage points. Just as telling in those suburban counties is that eight incumbent Republican state representatives lost their re-election bids to Democratic challengers and another was too close to call pending the official count. In state Senate races, five women were re-elected and five more defeated incumbents or won open seats, more than doubling the number of women in that chamber from five to 12. Women will hold at least 50 of the 203 state House seats next year, up from 42, with several races still undecided. Democrats had hoped for a blue wave but Republicans later characterized the results as more of a ripple. But the Pennsylvania results are a powerful, if not immediately obvious undertow that heavily will influence future elections. Until last Tuesday, Pennsylvania was among the states with the fewest women candidates and even fewer women officeholders. Ideally, the successes last Tuesday will inspire more women to run and make a difference, especially in Northeast Pennsylvania, where relatively few women hold offices other than school board seats, and where governance generally cries for fresh perspective.