The New Wave: Surge Of Women Running For Office
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The midterm congressional primaries are kicking into full gear and there is a tidal wave of female candidates running for office this year.
Although filing deadlines have yet to pass in every state, the country is already seeing a record number of women running for Congress. Many women are also on the ground in gubernatorial races, as well as some state legislative and municipal elections.
“We’re looking at close to double the number of women who ran in previous record years,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. “When we look at the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House and statewide elected offices we’re at over 700 women who are running for office. We’re really seeing a huge increase in the U.S. House.”
Many believe the 2016 presidential election is responsible for inspiring women to run.
“So many people got engaged in that election whether they were pro-Trump or pro-Hillary and they got off the sidelines and started volunteering and talking about politics,” said Mendham Township Committeewoman Amalia Duarte. “I think right now it’s wonderful because women need to be represented, we need to be at the table otherwise we’re on the menu, or so goes the quote. I’m hoping that women continue to be engaged, continue to run and continue to stay involved in politics because it’s important. These are our lives.”
Walsh credits President Donald Trump.
“I think a piece of it was the defeat of Hillary Clinton, I think a larger part of that though is the election of Donald Trump,” Walsh said. “I think for a lot of women they thought that when the Access Hollywood tape came out that he couldn’t possibly win, that it would be disqualifying for anyone to get elected president of the United States who openly talked about sexually assaulting women.”
Montclair State University Political Science and Law Professor Brigid Harrison agrees.
“We can’t deny the influence that President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has had,” Harrison said. “It has really ticked some women off and really made them mobilized and compelled to do something on a very personal level.”
But Walsh thinks it goes beyond sexism.
“I think it went also to the actual policies that women care about and feeling like some of the things that they were concerned about — issues like health care and the environment — were really in jeopardy and that they needed to have a voice of their own,” Walsh said. “It was a real kind of clarion call about the fact that elections have real consquences and that women really felt that they had to find a way to have their own power, their own voice and to be able to exercise their power in the electoral system and I think all of that has led to women being more engaged.”
Roughly three-quarters of the congressional female candidates are Democrats.
“There needs to be more done on the Republican side because political parity will not be achieved in this country on the back of one political party, both parties have to have a commitment to that,” Walsh said.
But it’s not just Democrats.
“On the Republican side, you are seeing some Republican women saying, ‘You know what, this is not my party. This is not what I believe in. I’m not a Democrat but this does not represent how I see the future of my party and so I’m going to do something abnout it,'” Harrison said.
Republican Chele Chiavacci Farley, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, said she’s been traveling the state and speaking to people told her they’re appalled and disappointed at the general chaos they see in Washington.
“There’s obstruction on both sides of the aisle and they’ve lost faith in their government leaders,” Farley said.
Over the coming weeks, WCBS Newsradio 880 will examine the challenges women have faced, what it will take to achieve parity and how the political landscape is changing.
Neil A. Carousso produced WCBS Newsradio 880 reporter Peter Haskell’s multi-platform series titled “The New Wave: Women in Politics.” See the video piece of this first installment here.