Written by James Pindell in the Boston Globe on May 13, 2020
More women are running for the US House in 2020 than at any point in American history, according to a running tally of candidates compiled by Rutgers University researchers.
Including incumbents, there are now 490 female candidates running in primaries for the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives around the country. That number is expected to rise given that the candidate filing deadline has not yet arrived in 14 states.
The new surge of women candidates breaks the previous record in 2018 when 476 women ran for the US House. This year’s numbers are especially positive news to those concerned about the lack of representation of women in elected office.
Even though the majority of people in the United States are female, less than a quarter of US Representatives are women.
Some wondered whether the 2018 record class of female candidates was an anomaly given that it occurred in the #MeToo era and when Democratic women, in particular, were motivated to run during President Trump’s first midterm election.
But it is Republican women who are are the main driver for the record number of women running this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. So far, there are 195 Republican women candidates for the US House, zooming past the previous record of 133 in 2010, when the National Republican Congressional Committee placed a special emphasis on recruiting candidates who were women.
“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,” said Debbie Walsh, who leads the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. “This is a sign that the momentum isn’t letting up. 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.”
That said, Democrats still have more women candidates for the US House overall. A hundred more Democratic women are currently running than Republican women. With 295 filed as candidates so far, it is possible they could break their own party record of 356 running in 2018.
In New England, men still hold two-thirds of the region’s 21 House seats. And, for context, of the 490 female House candidates around the country, just 16 are from New England, including nine from Massachusetts. There are no women running for the House in Vermont or Rhode Island, where there are incumbent Democratic men seeking reelection.
The number of female candidates for the US Senate this year may also break the record of 53 set in 2018. Currently, there are 48. In high-profile races including Maine and Iowa it’s expected that both Republican and Democratic nominees will be women. There are fewer races for governor in presidential election years. But of the two states in the region holding gubernatorial contests, Vermont and New Hampshire, there is just one female candidate, former Vermont secretary of education Rebecca Holcombe.
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