| September 02, 2018 12:00 AM
In case you have not heard, this is “The Year of the Woman” in politics.
It’s been pretty impossible to miss; it has been in every major newspaper and talked about continuously on every cable news outlet. And the bulk of the national news has been about upset wins in primary races by Democratic women, female candidates commonly thought to be both the salve to soothe unhappy Republican voters who loathe anything that would help President Trump hold onto a Republican majority as well as keep fired-up Democrats energized.
All with their eye on midterm Election Day, Nov. 6.
The female candidate with the highest profile has been Democratic congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who describes herself as a socialist — whose surprising win over Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., (a man fourth in line in the Democratic Party’s House leadership and considered a possible leader of the House Democrats should Pelosi step down) turned heads.
But there are dozens more like Stacey Abrams’ quest to become not just the first female Democrat to win the governor’s office in Georgia, but also the first African-American candidate to do so. If she wins she would also be the nation’s first female black governor.
According to data compiled by the Center for American Women in Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, the number of women who filed to run for office for either House, Senate, or governor have all exceeded past numbers.
As of the middle of June, 468 women in total had filed to run for the House. Democratic female candidates exceeded their previous record of 190 in 2012 to 350 this cycle, while Republican women are just short of their 2010 record of 128 with 118 women filing their candidacies.
For the Senate, 51 women filed this year to run (29 Democrats, 22 Republicans), up from 40 in the last cycle, surpassing all previous highs.
And women seeking the governor’s office nearly doubled their record year (set in 1994 with 34 candidates) hitting an all-time high of 61, with 40 Democrats and 21 Republicans seeking office.
Not all women won their primaries, but the record numbers are rock solid.
While Republicans were the first out of the gate in electing the first woman to the House (a Montanan named Jeannette Rankin, who served twice, 1917 to 1919 and 1941 to 1942, with the unique distinction of being the only lawmaker to vote against America’s entry into both world wars), Democratic women have held more seats in both chambers since that historic breakthrough in part because they have run in more races.
But that does not mean it should go under-reported that Republican women aren’t part of this Year of the Woman in the first big election after the #MeToo movement as well as the election of Donald Trump.
So now that the general elections are in full swing, there’s another chapter for Year of the Woman that’s rarely being written. It’s the bumper crop of Republican women in marquee Senate races.
Who are they? There are a couple of historic categories, like current Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (formerly the Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce who was appointed to her Senate seat this year when Thad Cochran’s health became an issue).
Both would make history as the first woman elected governor or senator in their states.
The second category are the historic woman versus woman races, like the tough marquee Arizona Senate race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, or the Minnesota race between Sen. Tina Smith, the Democrat appointed to replace Al Franken, and Republican State Sen. Karin Housley.
And then there is the race that no one is talking about, in Wisconsin, between Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Leah Vukmir, who recently won a knock-down drag-out tough primary with all the money in the world against her. In this case Vukmir, a state senator, was a woman who worked the establishment to get the endorsement. The male candidate, Kevin Nicholson, failed to win the primary or get the endorsement despite a financial advantage, which is a pretty interesting twist in politics that has been rarely analyzed outside of Wisconsin.
Not all of these Republican candidates are going to win, obviously — they are mostly challengers. But there is a good chance that the next Congress will likely end up with more Republican women in the U.S. Senate than we’ve ever had, and it’s always worth noting history when it is in the making.