MS. SMITH GOES TO WASH­ING­TON

Elec­tion of Trump pushed more women to run for of­fice

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Lib­eral Demo­cratic women won high­pro­file bat­tles in party pri­maries last month, stok­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion of an­other year of the fe­male can­di­date — this time boosted by a wave of anti-Trump sen­ti­ment.

Stacey Abrams, who won a pri­mary in Georgia, be­came the first black wo­man from ei­ther party to be nominated for a gover­nor’s seat. And women won a hotly con­tested House pri­mary in Ken­tucky, thrilling the party’s left wing, and emerged the nom­i­nees from sev­eral House runoff pri­maries in Texas.

Six­teen months af­ter women marched on Wash­ing­ton to show their dis­plea­sure with the prospect of a Pres­i­dent Trump, they’re now flex­ing their po­lit­i­cal mus­cles and sign­ing up in record num­bers to run for of­fice.

Nearly 400 women al­ready have filed to run as can­di­dates for the House this year, and 75 oth­ers are likely to jump in, ac­cord­ing to a tally from Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics at Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity. About three-quar­ters of them are Democrats.

More than 70 al­ready have won their pri­maries and will be on the bal­lot in Novem­ber, in­clud­ing 62 Democrats and 10 Repub­li­cans.

“It gives me tremen­dous hope,” said Abi­gail Span­berger, a for­mer CIA of­fi­cer who is run­ning for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in Vir­ginia’s 7th Con­gres­sional District.

She said women like her who have strong pub­lic ser­vice re­sumes but pre­vi­ously wouldn’t have run have got­ten “a bit of a jolt” and are mov­ing from the side­lines to the cen­ter of the po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion in Wash­ing­ton.

That jolt, in many cases, was the elec­tion of Mr. Trump, com­pound­ing long-held frus­tra­tion over the women’s un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Congress.

“I ab­so­lutely think the 2016 elec­tion was a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tor for me, as it was for so many peo­ple,” Mrs. Span­berger said.

Deb­o­rah Walsh, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Women and Pol­i­tics, said she doubts the coun­try would be see­ing record num­bers of women run­ning for fed­eral of­fice had Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton or one of the other GOP can­di­dates such as Jeb Bush had emerged the vic­tor.

“I think what we are look­ing at is the po­ten­tial for long-term change,” she said, adding that the chal­lenge will be for women who have got­ten in­volved to stay en­gaged as can­di­dates, donors or ac­tivists.

Ms. Walsh also said much of the story will be writ­ten later this year: “I don’t like to be the wet blan­ket, but the next chal­lenge is the gen­eral elec­tion where they are run­ning against en­trenched in­cum­bents.”

For now, though, mo­men­tum is be­hind the year of the fe­male can­di­date.

Women won 10 of the 32 Demo­cratic House pri­maries and two of the 29 GOP races last week, ac­cord­ing to Gen­der Watch 2018, a non­par­ti­san elec­tion tracker.

A week ear­lier, eight women — seven of them Democrats — won nom­i­na­tion con­tests in Penn­syl­va­nia, which has sent an all-male con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to Wash­ing­ton since 2015.

“This is a huge mo­ment in his­tory and it looks like it is not fad­ing,” said G. Terry Madonna, pro­fes­sor of pub­lic af­fairs and direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics and Pub­lic Af­fairs at Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege. “There are just more women fil­ing to run as Democrats than Repub­li­can women who are fil­ing to run.”

While both par­ties are of­fer­ing fe­male can­di­dates, the heavy ac­tion is on the Demo­cratic side — just as it is with women al­ready in Congress, where 82 of the 122 wo­man are in the mi­nor­ity party.

At least three of those women — Sens. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York, El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts and Ka­mala Harris of Cal­i­for­nia — are thought to be con­sid­er­ing 2020 pres­i­den­tial bids.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan found him­self ear­lier this month hav­ing to de­fend his party’s lack of par­ity with Democrats when it comes to fe­male can­di­dates.

But the Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can pointed to Carol Miller, who won the Repub­li­can Party’s nom­i­na­tion for a House seat in West Vir­ginia, call­ing her “a very im­pres­sive wo­man.” Mr. Ryan also pointed to new Rep. Deb­bie Lesko, who won a spe­cial elec­tion this month to fill a seat from Ari­zona.

“We’ve got some very im­pres­sive women who’s just ar­rived, and/or go­ing to be ar­riv­ing, so we’re very ex­cited about them,” he said.

At the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee — run by a wo­man, Ronna Rom­ney McDaniel — spokes­woman Blair El­lis said the GOP has a deep bench of fe­male can­di­dates.

Yet women vot­ers are drift­ing away from Repub­li­cans.

A Pew Re­search sur­vey from March found that 56 per­cent of women identify as Democrats, up 4 per­cent­age points since 2015. Men, by con­trast, break Repub­li­can 48 per­cent to 44 per­cent — a rate that’s com­pa­ra­ble to that in 2014.

Among mil­len­nial women, the gap was wider, with 70 per­cent iden­ti­fy­ing with the Demo­cratic Party, com­pared to 56 per­cent four years ago.

Kim Drew Wright, co-founder of the Lib­eral Women of Ch­ester­field County, Vir­ginia, said the choice for women af­ter Mr. Trump’s elec­tion was “ei­ther cry over your key­boards or stand up and get in­volved.”

“Some of us started groups,” Ms. Wright said. “Some of us ran for of­fice. Some of us just found the courage to put a Demo­cratic can­di­date’s sign in our yard, think­ing we were sur­rounded by Repub­li­cans — un­til our lonely blue sign sprouted oth­ers down the street on neigh­bors’ lawns and we re­al­ized there were more of us than we had thought.”

Jane Kleeb, a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee from Ne­braska, where Kara East­man won a con­gres­sional pri­mary this month and the ma­jor­ity of the can­di­dates run­ning atop their ticket are women, said the can­di­dates to­day are build­ing on gains women made over the last decade.

But she said Mrs. Clin­ton’s de­feat in 2016 was still a wa­ter­shed mo­ment.

“Women all saw one of the most qual­i­fied can­di­dates get taken down by the right wing be­cause she is a wo­man,” Mrs. Kleeb said. “Tell me a man at Clin­ton’s level that the right wing treated with such ha­tred over 20 years.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Stacey Abrams won the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion to run for gover­nor in Georgia. She is the first black wo­man from ei­ther po­lit­i­cal party to be nominated to the of­fice.

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