As the U.S. marks Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day, it’s also marking a record-breaking election year for women, with more female candidates running for U.S. Congress than ever before.
While 2018 broke records for the number of women who ran for and won elected positions across the country, female candidates in 2020 are continuing to seek elected positions — particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for election on Nov. 3, says Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
In 2020, 583 women have ran for U.S. House seats– far exceeding the previous record of 476. And so far, 289 women have won primaries to become a major party candidate for the upcoming U.S. House elections, breaking the previous record set in 234 women who secured nominations in 2018 to run for House seats. Currently, 101 women hold seats in the House, or about 23%.
“While some people talked about 2018 as the ‘Year of the Woman,’ we are seeing that women making political progress isn’t confined to any one election year,” Dittmar says. While the U.S. may not yet have gender parity when it comes to representation in elected positions, “we’re seeing additional gains for women in elected office and more women are running than ever. And we’re seeing progress in the number of women running from both parties,” Dittmar notes.
So far 2020 has seen a record number of women of color running for House seats, and more Republican women are running than in years past, Dittmar says. There are 59 Black women nominees for the U.S. House, including Nikema Williams (D, GA-05) who replaces John Lewis on the general election ballot by party selection. Williams wasn’t a primary candidate because Lewis won that primary before he passed away. The previous record for Black women nominees was 41 in 2018, Dittmar says.
Republicans are also making strides, with 90 GOP women having secured candidacy for U.S. House elections, a significant gain from the previous record of 53 in 2004, Dittmar says. So far, 199 Democratic women have secured their party nominations for U.S. House, breaking the record of 182, set in 2018.
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that granted women the right to vote, but women are also making steady progress toward more equitable representation in state legislatures, says Martha Saenz, program manager for the Women’s Legislative Network at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Currently, 2,145 women serve in state legislatures, making up 29% of state legislators nationwide, Saenz says. Nevada‘s legislature continues to lead the nation in female representation. Its legislature is comprised of more than 52% women, making it only state legislature in the nation with a female majority. Colorado comes in second, with women comprising 47% of its state legislature.
Because 2019 wasn’t a big election year, the number of women in state elected positions has remained similar to last year, but some small but significant gains were made, Saenz says. She notes a trend of more elected women taking on leadership roles in state legislatures. For instance, Virginia‘s legislature elected its first woman speaker of the house in November. That state also saw the addition of three female legislators in the past year, so women now comprise more than 28% of its legislature.
“We’ve seen a slight bump in a few states, but we’ve also seen a jump in women taking on leadership roles, and over time that does change the overall structure of a legislature,” Saenz explains. One trend she has noticed is that women in state legislature tend to focus on social issues, but as greater parity between genders is reached in legislatures, women tend to take on legislation that tends to be more traditionally introduced by their male counterparts.
“They’ll start to focus on things that go beyond social issues, such as economic development or fiscal impact,” Saenz says.
Other small but noteworthy bumps this year include Mississippi seeing the addition of five women legislators, giving women nearly 17% representation in its state legislature. Louisiana increased its female legislators by three, giving women 18% representation in its state legislature.
“Overall, there’s a lot to be determined, as 2020 looks to be another big year,” Saenz says.
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Women Seek Legislative Office in Record Numbers in 2020 originally appeared on usnews.com