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Record number of women running for office in 2018 midterms

September 18, 2018

Women roared in the primary elections this year, pulling out victories all across the country and shattering records along the way in what activists say is a reaction to President Trump.

More women will be on the ballot in November at the federal, state and local levels than ever before.

The slate of nominees is black, white, Latina, Asian and American Indian. They range from 20-somethings to senior citizens. And they bring a wide variety of life experiences, the candidates include a nurse and former CIA officer.

“This has been an extraordinary year for women running for office,” said Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We have broken every record at the state legislative level, as well as in gubernatorial and congressional races.”

The final fields of candidates were set with the last primaries last week, capping a six-month slog that started with women winning high-profile congressional nominations in Texas and ended with them winning Democrats’ nominations in New York for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Twenty-three women 15 of them Democrats will be running for seats in the Senate; 239 women, 187 of them Democrats, are contending for seats in the House; and 16 women, 12 of them Democrats, are a step away from being governor.

Those are all new highs, as are the 3,379 women running for state legislative seats, surpassing the previous record by a whopping 730 candidates.

A half-dozen U.S. Senate races are a showdown between women, including for the open seat in Arizona where Republican Rep. Martha McSally faces off against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

Women also notched the two biggest upsets of the primary season.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated Rep. Joe Crowley in New York, and Ayanna Pressley ousted Rep. Mike Capuano in Massachusetts.

Democrats say women are stepping forward partly to send a message to Mr. Trump. Some of the candidates traced their interest in running back to taking part in the women’s march on Washington the weekend after the president’s inauguration last year.

“From Day One of the Trump presidency, women have been standing up to fight back against his dangerous agenda,” said Elizabeth Renda, director of women’s media at the Democratic National Committee. “America is hungry for female Democratic leadership, and women are rising up across the country to deliver it.”

Ms. Renda said the rise of women could change the debate on Capitol Hill over issues including domestic violence, health care and abortion.

“Now more than ever, we need their leadership in Congress,” she said.

Said Jesse Hunt, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, “Some of the most impressive candidates on the Republican side are women and their success is a testament to the deep connection they have with voters in their respective districts.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams is looking to become the first black female governor of Georgia, while Democrat Paulette Jordan has the chance to become the nation’s first American Indian governor in Idaho. Republican Rep. Kristi Noem is running to become the first female governor of South Dakota.

Women make up 51 percent of the population. They only hold 20 percent of the 535 seats in Congress, 23 percent of 312 statewide elected offices and 25 percent of the 7,383 seats in state legislatures.

“The results of this election are not going to turn around women’s underrepresentation in American politics,” Ms. Walsh said. “This is not going to happen in one cycle This is still a marathon we are in and it is going to take multiple elections with the same engagement and enthusiasm.”

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