House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks with Democratic women members of the House after a group photo at the Capitol on January 4, 2019. | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
The number surpasses the record set in 2018.
Women candidates are setting a new record this year: A historic number have filed to run for the House, surpassing even the number who did in 2018.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 490 women have filed for House seats so far, an uptick from the 476 women who ran in 2018. It’s likely this number will ultimately be higher, as 14 states’ filing deadlines aren’t until later in the year.
“In 2018, amidst the excitement of a record-breaking year for women candidates, we often asked whether we were in the middle of a one-time spike in candidacies driven by unique circumstances or if we were seeing the emergence of a new normal,” CAWP director Debbie Walsh said in a statement. “This is a sign that the momentum isn’t letting up.”
The increase in House candidates this year is driven by more candidate filings on both sides of the aisle, according to Walsh. In 2018, much of the surge was observed among Democrats, who saw a big influx of women candidates, spurred heavily by pushback against President Donald Trump. This cycle, there’s also a notable uptick in Republican women vying for the House.
At this point, 195 Republican women have filed to run for a House seat, breaking the previous record of 133 Republican women who ran in 2010. It’s a notable trend: The Republican Party has previously struggled to recruit more women candidates, and saw the number of GOP women representatives decline in 2018.
“We are particularly encouraged to see Republican women stepping up and seeking office — we’ll never get to parity without women on both sides of the aisle running and winning,” Walsh said.
Members of both parties have signaled that recruiting more women to run for office was a goal for this cycle, though some of these candidates won’t be elected to Congress. In some districts, women are competing against each other, for example. In others, they’re running against fairly safe incumbents.
The increase in women running for Congress remains significant, however, given the lack of gender parity in the House and Senate. Such gains suggest that this cycle could well build on the notable progress that was made in 2018, when a record-breaking number of women not only ran, but were elected.
Congress remains very far from gender parity, but recent elections mark progress
Currently, 127 women serve in Congress, with 101 in the House and 26 in the Senate. Women this term have comprised roughly 23 percent of the House and 26 percent of the Senate.
As these figures indicate, the gender disparities in both chambers is still notable. For every woman in Congress, there are roughly three men. And the split along party lines is even starker. About 38 percent of Democratic lawmakers are currently women, while just 8 percent of Republicans are.
This cycle could boost the number of women in Congress, and continue the inroads that were made in 2018 — though the likelihood of that outcome will become clearer as more states complete their primaries this summer.
Maintaining and expanding upon previous gains is crucial to increasing women’s representation in government, a change that can affect which policies are prioritized.
A study from Georgetown University professor Michele Swers, for example, found that liberal women in Congress sponsored far more bills related to women’s health than their male counterparts. Female lawmakers, backed, on average, 10.6 bills related to the subject, roughly double the number supported by their male colleagues.
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