By Colleen Shalby (LA Times)
A record number of women are running for the U.S. House, Senate and state legislatures this year — more than any other election in U.S. history.
Traditionally, the major political parties scout out their potential candidates. And typically, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, men are sought after more than women.
But in the two years before the 2018 midterm election, amid marches for women’s rights and the growing #MeToo movement, something shifted in a field that has historically paved an easier path for men:
“Women are running whether or not Democrats and Republicans invite them to,” said Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, a political science professor at USC.
Alfaro attributes the record-breaking turnout in large part to a groundswell in localized programs encouraging women to run and educating them on the process.
Emily’s List — the leading nonprofit to help and recruit progressive Democratic women to run for office since 1985 — has played witness to that rise in interest. (Emily stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast — it makes the dough rise.”)
“Recruiting means just that — going out to find women to run,” said Emily Cain, the group’s executive director. “But in our history — the first 30-some years — we were not inundated with women coming to us to run for office.”
That changed in 2016.
A record 3,379 women have won nomination for state legislatures across the country, breaking 2016’s record of 2,649, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. And 235 women won nominations in U.S. House races, breaking the previous 2016 record of 167. Twenty-two women won major-party nominations for U.S. Senate, breaking the record of 18 set in 2012.
Sixteen women have been nominated for gubernatorial races. The previous record, set in 1994, was 10. For the first time in general election history, there are two female congressional candidates facing each other in at least 28 major-party matchups. The previous record, set in 2002 and matched in 2016, was 17.
According to David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report — a nonpartisan group that analyzes campaigns and elections — women have won 43% of Democratic House primary races, and Republican women have won 13% of their party’s primaries.
Alfaro says women don’t often run until they’re “120% ready.” Men, on the other hand, jump in at much earlier stages in their career, she said.
That can be said of fields beyond the realm of politics too. A statistic that has been widely cited in articles and books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” is that women typically apply for a job when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men often apply when they meet 60%.
That reluctance helps lead to the imbalance in gender representation. Take California, for example. The Center for American Women and Politics ranks the most populous state at No. 26 for representation of women in the state legislature (25%) compared with the proportion of women in the state (50%).