After winning primaries, women could set a record
“When women run, women win.” That’s been the line on getting more women into public office; if only there were more candidates, there would be more elected.
So with a record 256 women running for the House and Senate this year, will there be a record-breaking surge of women in office come January?
Probably, probably not and maybe. It depends on which office you’re following, and what happens in toss-up races over the next seven weeks.
This has definitely been a historic year so far: The 2018 midterms have broken the record for the number of female candidates who filed as well as for the number and share of women who won primaries in House and Senate contests. The number of women winning primaries for the governor’s office is also the highest ever, and the share is the highest since 2000.
There are more woman vs. woman contests than ever before: 33, up from a previous record of 19 in 2002 and the single digits in 1992, the Year of the Woman.
The best chances for women to make history are in the House, where Democratic women won primaries at a higher rate than any other group, male or female. Women of color make up onethird of all House candidates, also a record.
Still, it is possible that the number of women will decline or remain at status quo in Congress and in the governors’ offices.
How can that be, when the number of women running has shot up so much?
It is mostly because a majority of female candidates are running in House districts that favor the other party — either running for open seats or challenging incumbents, who almost always win.
In 84 House races, women are favored to win in November because they are running in districts that are favoring their party, or both major party candidates are women. If only they win, there will be the same number of women in the House next year as there are now.
But if women win all the competitive races in addition to ones where they are favored to win, they will hold 116 seats in the House come January. Still, this is not parity: Even if women win every one of the races with female nominees, they still will occupy fewer than half the seats in the House.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, half of female nominees in the House are running as challengers, compared with 36 percent of male nominees. Among Democrats, 53 percent of the women in the general election are challengers, compared with 40 percent of men.
“The argument has been: When women run, they’re just as likely as similarly situated men to win,” said Jennifer Lawless, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia (and a former Democratic House candidate in Rhode Island). “It’s not that they’re less likely to win this year — they’re just comprising a lot of the challengers.”
Women attend 2017’s Women’s March in Washington the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. A record 256 women are running for Congress in the 2018 midterms, with a large number of Democrats reflecting the energy behind demonstrations against Trump.