Twenty-six years after the media first appraised an election season as the “Year of the Woman in Politics,” a familiar feeling is stirring on the campaign trail. Women make up more than 40 percent of Democratic House candidates to win their party’s nomination so far this year, according to an NBC analysis published Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath beat her male rival, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (whom, notably, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) encouraged to run after McGrath had announced her campaign).
— Hillary Thornton (@HillaryWKYT) May 23, 2018
In Texas, six Democratic women secured nominations in run-off races, while four other women in Georgia won their races. Two women in Georgia have moved on to run-offs.
Including last night’s races, the total number of Democratic woman nominated for seats in the House of Representatives is now up to 62, with four more months — and the majority of primaries — yet to come. As NBC noted, in 1990, there were 69 women in total representing major parties in House races in the general election.
While Democrats have seen their numbers skyrocket, the number of women winning nominations on the Republican side has actually fallen, according to NBC’s analysis. So far, the party has nominated just 10 women in House races so far.
It’s not just in House races that Democratic women are having success.
Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, won the Democratic nomination in the Georgia gubernatorial primary Tuesday night, beating out another Stacey, state legislator Stacey Evans. Should Abrams win in November, she will be the first black woman governor in the United States. Either woman winning in November would have made history, though: Georgia has never had a woman in the state’s top job.
Another woman, former sheriff Lupe Valdez, made history in Texas, becoming both the first Latina and the first openly gay person nominated by a major party for Texas governor.
— Gromer M. Jeffers (@gromerjeffers) May 23, 2018
Tuesday night’s successes for Democratic women come just one week after socialist and progressive women cleaned up in primaries in Pennsylvania and Nebraska. Two women backed by their local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) organization beat two different members of the Costa family dynasty in state House races last week.
Also among last week’s winning women was progressive Democrat and local non-profit president Kara Eastman, who pulled off an upset in a Nebraska House race against former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford.
Earlier this month, women won nominations in nearly every Democratic race they contested in Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana. In the 23 Democratic primaries in which at least one woman ran, 18 women won.
In a sense, it’s hardly surprising that women are winning nominations at a historic rate: Women are running at a historic rate, which was, for years, the biggest problem. When women run, they’re just as likely as men to be elected. It is just exceedingly rare to see women running for office at the rate at which they are this year.
The reason why this is the case is depressing, but it boils down to the fact that women are less likely to see themselves as qualified for office and don’t see themselves as viable candidates even when they are qualified. They’re also less likely to run without being encouraged by family and community members — and on the whole, they tend to get less encouragement than their male peers.
But this year. it’s different.
As of last month, a record-breaking 309 women had declared their candidacy for House seats, as have a record-breaking 40 women running for governor.
“This is not just a curiosity. It’s not an interesting number or statistic. It’s historic,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), told Politico in March. “This year a lot of unspoken but tough walls, I think, have come tumbling down.”