ATLANTA -- Women are not just running for office in record numbers this year -- they are winning.
More women than ever before have won major-party primaries for governor or seats in the U.S. Senate and House this year, paving the way for November battles that could significantly increase the number of women in elected office.
Most of these female hopefuls are Democrats, and some are first-time candidates who say their motivation to run sprang from President Donald Trump's election and the Republicans' control of Congress. But other developments factor in, too, including the #MeToo movement and Trump's nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
"Part of the reason I thought this race was possible, even despite great odds, was because of all the women who are so engaged in my community in a new way," said Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot and federal prosecutor who aims to capture a Republican-held congressional seat in New Jersey.
Sherrill is one of about 200 women who have won their U.S. House primaries, with 94 surviving crowded fields with three or more candidates, according to an analysis of election results. The previous record was set in 2016, when 167 women advanced, according to records kept by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
In the Senate, a record 19 women have won their primaries. And for the first time, 13 women have been nominated for gubernatorial races in a single election year.
All these numbers are likely to grow with nine states yet to hold their primaries. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., are among nine women running for governor who will face primary voters in coming weeks. No more than nine women have ever led states at the same time.
"We are seeing a level of enthusiasm among women voters that we haven't seen in a long time," said Democrat Laura Kelly, a Kansas gubernatorial candidate who faces Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the November election.
Currently, women account for just a fifth of the 535 U.S. representatives and senators and a quarter of state lawmakers. Six of the nation's 50 governors are female. Meanwhile, women comprise slightly more than half of the U.S. population.
Women appear to be running strongly so far. As of mid-August, about 49 percent of women running for the House had advanced to the general election, with about 40 percent advancing in Senate races and about 25 percent in gubernatorial campaigns, according to an analysis of election results.
But that's no guarantee of victory this fall. Many of the women, particularly Democrats, are running in long-held Republican congressional districts or states where Republicans have consolidated support.
One thing women have accomplished already is changing the tone and content of campaigns. They bring their children to rallies, and some want their campaign money to pay for child care so they can run. On this count, Liuba Grechen Shirley, the Democratic candidate challenging Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has succeeded. In May, the Federal Election Commission voted unanimously to allow the expenditure.
"I was told that with two kids, a husband who worked full time and no child care, that it was impossible" to run, Grechen Shirley says in an online ad, noting her effort to change the policy. "Well, it wasn't impossible. It's just really hard."
Information for this article was contributed by Errin Haines Whack and Justin Myers of The Associated Press.
A Section on 08/20/2018
Print Headline: Women shatter records with primary victories