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.

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