A record-breaking number of women are running for ― and winning ― spots on ballots in this year’s primary elections. Of the 92 women who participated in Tuesday’s eight primaries, at least 36 of them have emerged victorious.
Women are likely to be elected governor for the first time in Iowa and South Dakota, and for the first time in nearly five decades in Alabama, according to Gender Watch 2018, a project of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Women are also poised to make significant progress in House races: Iowa, for example, may elect its first-ever congresswoman, and New Mexico may elect the country’s first Native American congresswoman, Deb Haaland.
Tuesday’s results were “largely consistent with what we’ve seen in other states,” Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, told HuffPost.
The overwhelming majority of women who ran were on the Democratic side of the aisle, she said, where they have a high likelihood of winning this fall if they’re running in largely Democratic districts.
More than 500 women have so far filed to run in primaries this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. That number represents a 67 percent jump from 2016. More than 110 of those women have won their races, 30 of them in California alone. Most of the women running are Democrats, although one-third of Republican women running have also won their races.
Yet despite the unprecedented number of female candidates, they still only represent about 23 percent of all candidates running nationwide, Lawless noted. “That’s not much different to the proportion in previous election cycles. Men are motivated to run for office too, and that’s why we’re seeing such a crowded primary.”
Many of these women credit President Donald Trump’s election and the potency of the Me Too movement with fueling their desire to run.
“That election was a real slap in the face to a lot of us,” Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat running for a House seat in New Jersey currently held by a Republican, told Bloomberg. “Progress wasn’t inevitable.”
Lawless predicts the momentum will continue.
“All of the primaries that we’re going to see between now and September are just as likely to be a reaction to Trump’s presidency as the earlier ones,” she said.
Some of Tuesday’s big winners, however, aren’t political newcomers, said Kelly Dittmar, assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden and scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics. Haaland, for example, served as state party chair before running for Congress.
“You have women who have been doing the work and have a political resume to show for it,” Dittmar said. “While there is a national narrative about how women woke up and decided to run, a lot of successful women have been engaged in their communities. They’re not just coming out of nowhere.”
Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, described Tuesday’s wins as groundbreaking and noted that many of the women the organization has endorsed are still winning crowded primaries.
“I’m not seeing primaries being cleared for these great women,” she told HuffPost. “These aren’t gimmes.”
Schriock rejected the idea that these candidates are winning simply because they’re women. “The idea that there’s some gender bonus just undermines the hard work these candidates have done,” she said.
She also linked the various candidates’ success to the Women’s March and subsequent activism.
“All that energy, which is still building, is going to lift Democrats up and down the ballot,” she said. “Women will be the reason Democrats win the House in November.”
This story has been updated to include Schriock’s comments.
Kevin Robillard contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article implied that Alabama has never elected a female governor.