Economic Growth

More women are running for political office in the US than ever before

A young girl listens as U.S. President Barack Obama campaigns for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, U.S., November 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - S1AEULNTRFAA

A record-breaking 19 women have won major party nominations for the US Senate this year. Image: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Alex Gray
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There’s enough going on in US politics right now to make you think it’s a presidential election year.

But the next general election won't take place until 2020. This year, all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, one-third of all US Senators, 36 state governors and three US territorial governors are all up for election, as well as local and mayoral seats.

And this time, more women than ever are running for office. In fact, they are breaking records, in what has become known as the “pink wave” of US politics.


All women contests

A record-breaking 19 women - 13 of whom are Democrats and six of whom are Republicans - have won major-party nominations for the US Senate this year, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics. The previous record of 18 was set in 2012.

Meanwhile, over 400 women ran this year for a spot in the US House of Representatives - of which 272 are still in the running. Those seats will be decided on 6 November at the Midterm elections. In addition, at the state level, 36 states and three territories will vote for their governor.

On a national level, there are now five Senate races that will feature only women.

Most recently, Leah Vukmir won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Wisconsin, and Karin Housely won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Minnesota.

In 2012, the year the record was last set, there were just three women-only races.

At a state level, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won her party’s nomination for Michigan, lining her up against Republican Bill Schuette in the governor's race.

Candidate for Governor of Vermont, Christine Hallquist Image: Reuters

The Democrats are fielding what’s called an all-female ticket - with women lined up to compete for Senate, state attorney general and secretary of state in the county.

Democrat Laura Kelly also won the Democratic nomination for Kansas.

The addition of the two women means that 11 women will contest governorships in November - one more than the previous 1994 record.

Rising diversity

In addition, a record number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are standing in elections.

In Vermont, Democrat Christine Hallquist has become the first transgender candidate to win a governor nomination for a major party. And transgender Alexandra Chandler, a former naval intelligence analyst, is running for Congress in Massachusetts for the Democrats.

This year’s Midterms could also see the first Muslim enter Congress, after Ilhan Omar a Somali-American former refugee won her Democratic primary in Minnesota while Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib is also tipped to win a seat.

Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics, says the reasons for this shift are hard to pin down.

She told The Independent newspaper that there was “no single reason”, saying that not enough women have entered the race previously.

“Women face a number of hurdles, like being less likely to be recruited to run for office by their own party, having fewer financial resources and “money networks” as influenced by a gender pay gap and not seeing themselves represented in elected positions.”

Have you read?

Mrs President?

Women currently hold 107 of the 535 seats in the 114th US Congress - just 20%.

They hold 23 - or 23% - of the 100 seats in the Senate and 84 - or 19.3% - of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

In June 2016, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman to be a major party's presidential nominee, eventually losing her battle to become America’s first female president.

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