Why women won big in Va. House of Delegates races

WASHINGTON — The blue wave on Election Day in Virginia was fueled by a crop of female Democratic candidates who triumphed over their Republican, male competitors.

Elections officials were still double-checking vote tallies in some of the closest races Wednesday. But of the 14 seats that Democrats picked up in races that have been called by The Associated Press, Democratic women were the standard-bearers in 11 of them.

In Northern Virginia, Democratic women ousted Republicans in seven races, including in the 13th District where local journalist Danica Roem made history as the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature.

In addition to Roem, other female winners Tuesday night will also make House history. Next year’s House of Delegates will include the first Asian-American women and the first Latinas. And the overall number of women serving in the 100-member body will jump from 17 to 27 including four Republicans.

Toni-Michelle Travis, a professor of political science at George Mason University who studies race and gender in politics, attributed the surge of women winners in large part to the national political climate and Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump.

Democratic “women felt they were disrespected by Trump,” Travis told WTOP. “And they said, ‘Well, maybe we can run and get into office’.”

In Virginia’s 51st District, which covers parts of Prince William County, Democratic challenger Hala Ayala, a former Department of Homeland Security employee, defeated Republican incumbent Rich Anderson, who had held the seat since 2010 and ran unopposed in his last election.

Ayala has said she felt energized to run for office after the Women’s March in D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration.

Elizabeth Guzman, a Dale City public administrator and social worker, ousted Republican incumbent Scott Lingamfelter, who had held the seat since 2002.

Guzman, along with Ayala, will be the first two Latinas to serve in the House.

In the 67th District, which covers parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Republican incumbent Jim LeMunyon, who also ran unopposed in 2015, fell to Democratic challenger Karrie Delaney, a former communications director for a nonprofit aimed at stopping sex trafficking.

Wendy Gooditis, a Clarke County realtor and former public schoolteacher, toppled Republican incumbent Randy Minchew, who was re-elected to the seat two years ago with 62 percent the vote.

Democrat Kathy Tran carried Virginia’s 42nd District, picking up a seat currently held by the GOP and becoming one of the first Asian-American women elected to the House. Tran defeated Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, a Republican woman for the open seat.

In Virginia Beach, Kelly Fowler unseated Republican Ron Villanueva in the 21st District. She will be the first Asian-American Pacific Islander to serve in the House; her grandfathers were both from the Philippines.

Jennifer Carroll Foy also picked up a GOP-controlled open seat in the 2nd District.

In Richmond, incumbent Republican Manoli Loupassi, conceded a close race for the 68th District seat to Dawn Adams, who would become the first openly lesbian member of the House if current vote tallies hold.

Travis, the George Mason professor, said there were at least four contested races where both the Democrat and the Republican on the ballot were women.

Will the success of Democratic women convince Republicans to recruit more women to run in House races?

“I think they will in many cases, because women want to be there,” Travis said. “Women want to be at the table; they want to be in the statehouse deciding the agenda.”

Overall, a record number of women ran in House races Tuesday: 43 Democrats, nine Republicans and one independent.

Other race results: Governor | Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General | House of Delegates | Virginia Local Races | Maryland Local Races

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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