More than 40,000 US women have expressed interest in running for office since the 2016 election, according to a leading Democratic recruitment organisation.
Emily’s List, a political action committee focused on enlisting pro-choice female candidates for office, announced the figures of those running for office since November 2016 – a dramatic increase from the less than 1,000 women who reached out to them during the last election cycle.
“Clearly there’s this incredible explosion of women coming out,” Alexandra De Luca, the press secretary for Emily’s List, told The Independent. The organisation’s president, Stephanie Schriock, declared these women part of a “powerful movement shaping our country this year, and in cycles to come”.
The latest figures represent the number of women who’ve signed up for Emily’s List’s “Run to Win” campaign – a new initiative providing information and trainings for women interested in running for office. Ms De Luca says they launched the initiative after receiving a flood of enquiries from women looking to mount a campaign after 2016.
Emily’s List used to be a recruitment organisation, Ms De Luca says, but now: “We’ve had to expand that work because we have all these women coming to us.”
That experience is consistent with the historic surge in female candidates running for office in 2018. According to data compiled by the Centre for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a record 468 women are running for the US House this year, compared to the previous record of 298 in 2012. The number of women running for the Senate is also record-breaking.
Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor Rutgers University-Camden and scholar at CAWP, says her organisation saw so much demand for their campaign training workshop last year that they had to move locations. Ms De Luca says Emily’s List had recently knocked down a wall in their offices to accommodate all their new hires.
“Across the board, women’s political organisations have seen an increase in demand for their products,” Ms Dittmar told The Independent, adding: “It’s unprecedented, the number of women running.”
Experts cite a variety of reasons for this dramatic increase, from concerns about healthcare access, to the growth of the anti-sexual harassment “me too” campaign. But both Ms De Luca and Ms Dittmar say they’d heard one reason mentioned over and over: the election of president Donald Trump.
“I think that clearly it has motivated women to come out and say: ‘If that guy can be president, I can run for school board,” Ms De Luca says.
Whatever their motivation, the women running for office also seem to be winning. About 26 per cent of the victors in last week’s primary elections were women, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets. That included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old socialist who unseated 10-term Democratic Representative Joe Crowley from New York in a dramatic upset.
According to OpenSecrets, about 40 per cent of Democratic primary winners for the House of Representatives this cycle have been women,
However, despite this historic surge in female candidates, their numbers still pale in comparison to the number of men in office – and on the ballot. As of 2017, men made up 80 per cent of the US Congress, and more than three-quarters of all state legislatures. According to Ms Dittmar, women make up only 24 per cent of the candidates on the 2018 primary ballots so far.
While applauding these women for paving the way for other female candidates, she cautioned: “We’ll definitely have more work to definitely have more work to do after November, no matter what.”
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