The Centurion

There’s a Historic Number of Women Running for Office Across America – and They’re Winning

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mike Vigilante

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On Nov. 2, 1920 millions of
American women went to the
voting booth to have their votes
counted for the first time. A fight
that took a century for activists
and reformers to cultivate and win
had finally come to fruition.
Although the fight for suffrage
had been won nearly 100 years
ago, millions of American women
are still marginalized in the
workplace – earning 78 cents on
the dollar compared to their male
counterparts – and in government,
where the United States ranks 104
of 190 countries vis-à-vis female
representation, according to data
provided by the Inter-Parliamentary
Union.
Despite these societal shortcomings,
a number of organizations
have been quietly working to nurture
and inspire women to run for
office themselves, to shockingly
successful results, as evidenced
by recent state and local elections
in places like Virginia, New Jersey,
and Washington.
One such group, EMILY’S List,
the largest national resource for
women in politics, has been working
since 1985 to fund campaigns
for women striving for public
service.
The name EMILY’S List isn’t
a reference to the organizations
founder or a homage to Emily
Dickinson, rather an acronym for
“Early Money Is Like Yeast,” it
makes the dough rise.
According to EMILY’S List, the
acronym is a reference (or challenge)
to conventional wisdom in
political financing, where major
early donations help in attracting
bigger, late donors.
But to the hard-working people
behind EMILY’s List, the name is
much more than a simple title or
catchphrase to spur recruitment.
“EMILY is more than a slogan,”
their mission statement describes.
“She’s a candidate, a voter, an
operative, a member.”
Candidates, voters, operatives
and members alike turned out on
Nov. 8 to elect a record number of
women to public office in Virginia
and Washington.
There were five open seats races
in the Virginia House of Delegates
with women running for
three. Moreover, women knocked
out eight male incumbents – some
of which were considered longshots.
15 seats overall were flipped
on Nov 8. in the Virginia House
of Delegates, 11 of whom were
women supported and endorsed
by EMILY’S List.
“A record number of women
ran for office in Virginia,” said
EMILY’S List President Stephanie
Schriok. “And now a record
number of women will serve in
the Virginia House of Delegates,
fighting for improved public education,
investment in infrastructure,
economic growth, and access
to healthcare.”
Prior to the election, the highest
number of women to serve in the
Virginia House was 19 in 2013.
That number will increase to at
least 25, with some elections still
too close to call or heading for a
run-off.
Debbie Walsh, director at the
Center for American Women and
Politics at Rutgers University,
also noted that, “Virginia women
ran in record numbers this year,
and their victories are one big
story of this election.”
“Running as challengers,” she
continued, “they defied conventional
wisdom and predictions to
score some surprising wins.”
Walsh also made a point to note
several other important landmarks
achieved on Election Day.
The new Virginia lawmakers
will include the first woman
elected as openly transgender, the
first Latina, and the first Asian
American women in the Virginia
House.
New Jersey’s newly elected Lt.
Governor will be a black woman,
the first elected to statewide office
in New Jersey.
Charlotte, North Carolina elected
its first black woman mayor.
Seattle, Washington will not
only have its first woman mayor
in almost a century, but its first
openly gay mayor in its history.
Atlanta’s mayoral race will soon
be decided in a run-off election
between two women.
Danica Roem, Virginia’s first
openly transgender lawmaker, in
an added layer of irony, even won
by unseating Del. Bob Marshall,
a Republican who introduced
Virginia’s infamous “bathroom
bill” that would have prohibited
transgender students from using
the bathroom of their choice.
Roem said on MSNBC’s “The
Last Word” after her historic
victory that “No matter what you
look like, where you come from,
who you love, how you identify
or any other inherent identifier
that you have, you should be celebrated
because of who you are,
not despite of it.”
The historic elections of Roem
and others came at the heels of
the Women’s March that was held
a day after President Trump’s inauguration
on Nov. 21, 2016 that
saw nearly half a million people
flood into Washington D.C. to
advocate for women’s rights and
equality.
While it’s difficult to know exactly
how many women became
inspired to run after witnessing
one of the largest protests in
American history, there are isolated
cases that illustrate that effect.
Ashley Bennett decided to run
against Atlantic County Freeholder
John Carman after he posted a
meme to his Facebook page that
read “Will the women’s protest
be over in time for them to cook
dinner?”
Bennett then beat Carman by
1,000 votes.
The nation’s recent female
victories are, for some, seen as
a bellwether of things to come
for the 2018 mid-terms and 2020
presidential race, with women
leading the charge by both running
and voting.
Only time will tell if voters will
parlay local success to national
success – but it’s a good step
towards equal representation.

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There’s a Historic Number of Women Running for Office Across America – and They’re Winning