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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

October 8, 2018

Hear Me Roar: Women Are Redefining Politics in the Age of Trump

Elections / National / Midterm

Women's rights are human rights protest sign

Women make up half of the US population. The women’s turnout rate has outstripped men’s in every presidential election since 1980. Yet, women comprise only 23 percent of the US Senate, 19.3 percent of the House, and 23 percent of state legislatures. There are currently only 6 sitting female governors and 22 states that have never elected a woman for that position. These women are only representing 33 out of the 50 states.

Come November, women are positioned to reach new milestones related to congressional and gubernatorial representation. In fact, the 2018 cycle has already set new records. There have been record-high numbers of women running for, and winning, primary elections in both congressional and gubernatorial elections. Now there is a historic number of women on general election ballots for House and Senate races this fall. A total of 256 women have won their party’s nomination, with 234 women running for the House and 22 for the Senate. There are 197 Democratic and 59 Republican female candidates.

In the House, there are 71 incumbent women running, 47 women running for open seats, and 121 women running as challengers.

Notably, the House could see more than 100 women serving simultaneously following November’s election. Additionally, they are expected to set records for the total number of new women elected at once. Between 30 and 40 new women are poised to enter the House next January – a surge that is being driven entirely by Democrats. As reported by Rutger’s Center for American Women and Politics, success for Democrats in this year’s primary election allowed them to break their 2016 record of 167 nominees for the House. There are currently 61 female Democrats, but after November, Democrats could increase their demographic of female representatives by more than a third. On the other side of the aisle, though, the amount of female Republicans in the House is actually projected to decrease. As of right now, there are 23 female Republicans, however, this year’s election could see that number shrink by nearly a third.

In the Senate, there are 13 incumbent women running, 4 women running for open seats, and 6 women running as challengers. Where there are currently 23 women out of the 100 members, possible gains are expected to be small.

There are 16 women running for Governor in November – 12 are Democrat and 4 are Republican. There are 4 incumbent women running, 8 women running for open seats, and 4 women running who are all challenging male incumbents. While these candidates have already trumped a number of records, their next record to beat will be the number of women actually serving, which reached 9 females in 2004 and 2007.

While there is a viable path for women to make historic gains in 2018, it will be an uphill battle as a sizable amount of female candidates are running in competitive districts, or districts that lean solidly towards the other party. 

Here is a closer look at some of the women who could make history in the 2018 midterms.

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