Over and over again, 2018 has been touted as the “year of the woman.”
A record number of women are running for office at every level of government, and a record number of women will be competing in the general elections. In total, 256 women won their congressional primaries this year, 22 vying for the Senate and 234 more running for a seat in the House. Additionally, 16 women have won gubernatorial primaries.
In 2016, just 15 women won Senate primaries, 167 women won House primaries, and only two won gubernatorial primaries. Two years later, a radical change is underway, but as the primary season comes to a close, it’s important to put the surge of woman candidates in context.
Right now, women make up just 20 percent of the United States Congress, despite making up more than 50 percent of the population. And while women have run — and won — in record numbers this year, it’s still nothing close to parity.
At the start of the primary season, a total of 530 women were running for Congress, compared to 1,103 men. Additionally, many of those women ran against each other in primary races, narrowing their numbers even further heading into the general election.
Women still only make up about 23 percent of the overall candidate pool for the 2018 general elections, and a huge majority of women candidates on the ballot this November are on Democratic tickets.
Of the 530 women who declared their candidacy at the start of this primary season, 387 of them — more than 73 percent — were Democrats. Even when Republican women do run, GOP voters often elected male candidates over their female counterparts. Just 34 percent of Republican women who have run for House seats this year have won their elections, compared to 69 percent of Democratic women.
In order to ever truly achieve parity, both parties need to empower women candidates. Yet despite the imbalance, woman stand a chance of dramatically narrowing the gender gap in the House. If — and that’s a big if — every woman who won a House primary wins in November, the number of women in the House would jump from 84 to 177.
Still, 177 out of 435 — the best case scenario — is hardly equal representation.