Record-breaking number of women running for office in 2018

As the 2018 midterms get closer, more women than ever are adding their names to the ballot

By Nicole Karlis
Published April 6, 2018 7:22PM (EDT)
"Told Me" — Amy McGrath for Congress Announcement Video (Youtube/Amy McGrath for Congress)
"Told Me" — Amy McGrath for Congress Announcement Video (Youtube/Amy McGrath for Congress)

In case you haven’t heard, women are preparing to grab the reins of America’s flailing democracy. The future is looking bright.

The Associated Press reported that on Thursday the number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives topped a previous record from 2012. According to data analyzed by AP News, 309 women from both political parties have filed to run for the House — a number calculated since Virginia revealed its candidate list on Thursday. The last record was set in 2012 when 298 women filed to run for candidacy in the House. Data was analyzed dating back to 1992 from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Currently, Congress is male-dominated. Specifically, in the U.S. House of Representatives, four out of every five members are men. According to the Center for American Women in Politics, in 2017, only 20 percent of the Senate was comprised of women; 19.3 percent of the House is, too.

It might be a challenging road to unseat incumbents in various states, but more women around the country are saying they’re up for the fight. There’s no doubt this surge of women running for office has been inspired by Donald Trump’s presidency. Erin Loos Cutraro, founder and CEO of She Should Run—a non-partisan 501(c)3 that provides women with the tools they need to run for office told Salon there’s been “an increase in numbers and an increase in determination” of women seeking to assume government positions.

“As the only organization that serves as a starting point for with women at all levels and all political stripes, our growing community is a clear indication that the enthusiasm is real and the determination is not going anywhere,” Cutraro said. “The record number of women stepping up to run for office now shows that women know their perspectives and experiences are needed and that their participation will make our democracy strong.”

The trend isn't only exclusive to seat in the House though, as the AP News reported.

Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, is one of the many women running for Congress this year. She's running as a Democrat in the sixth Congressional district of Kentucky and vying to unseat Republican Andy Barr. McGrath explained that the 2016 elections did inspire her run in a recent episode of Salon Talks.

“It was the 2016 elections that made me really take a step back and look at our country and look at how I needed to serve my country,” McGrath said. “I’ve served my country my entire adult life, and this for me was a second service.”

McGrath knows a thing or two about being patronized by the patriarchy. At the age of 13 she was told that she couldn’t fly in combat in a letter from her Congressman at the time.

“He said Congress thought that women ought to be protected and not allowed to serve in combat,” McGrath explains in one of her inspiring campaign commercials.

The former Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps., and the first woman to fly an F-18 in combat emphasized that political space today needs people who can get along with each other, despite their opposing political ideologies. Her husband, who has also served 20 years in the Navy, is a Republican, and she uses their relationship as an example of how Congress needs to work together despite differing being in different political parties.

“In the military, we focus on the mission,” McGrath explained. “We don’t look to you or the person next to us, the marine next to us, and say ‘Are you a democrat or are you a Republican? Oh, I’m not going to work with you.’ We work each other because we’re Americans.”

Kelda Roys is another woman running for office this year as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin. Currently, there are only six women state governors in the country. In a separate Salon Talks interview, she explained the barriers women frequently face when it comes to running for office.

“Politics, unfortunately, today does require a lot of money,” she told Salon. “And women sometimes have less personal wealth than men, or less flexibility in their jobs because maybe they took time off to care for children, then when women actually do step up and run for office there’s a whole other set of challenges.”

Those challenges, Roys explained, include appearances--and unfair double standards that are held almost exclusively to women at times. Roys agreed that the 2016 election likely inspired many women, including herself, to run for office. However, Roys previously served as a representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly. She ran for office in the open 2nd Congressional district of the state, but lost to Mark Pocan.

“I think that women after 2016, we just decided that we’re not going to sit back and let this happen to our country where someone who is repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and assault can occupy the highest seat in the land.”

In these dark political times, it’s inspiring that so many women are stepping up and putting their names in the proverbial hat.

“Throughout history, women have been a catalyst to change,” Cutraro said.

You can watch the full interview with Amy McGrath here:

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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