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Record number of women seeking seats in US Congress

Timothy A. Clary, AFP | Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, who is running in the Democratic primary for US Congress in Massachusetts’ First District, goes on a door-knocking and voter registration drive in Chicopee, Massachusetts, July 21, 2018.

A record number of women are running for the US Congress in November, a surge that follows a year marked by the #MeToo movement and defiance of President Donald Trump.


After another round of primary voting in several states on Tuesday, 183 women will fight for a seat in the House of Representatives in November's midterm election.

"It's official," the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) said after the voting in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri. "We've broken the record for women major party nominees for US House in any year."

Until now the record was 167. In another record, at least 11 women are running for state governor, the advocacy group said on Twitter. Until now that number had peaked at 10, in 1994.

In June, women also set a record for how many are running for the Senate. It is 42-24 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The previous record was 40, set in 2016, said the CAWP.

Several women candidates in races that they have a good chance of winning are from minorities with little or no representation in Congress.

They include Rashida Tlaib, who won a Democratic primary Tuesday in Michigan and is now poised to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

Several Native American women are also running for seats. "A Native American woman has never been elected to the US Congress," CAWP said.

Sharice Davids, 38, shattered the mould for a congressional primary winner from ruby red Kansas on Wednesday, becoming the state's first Native American and gay nominee for Congress.

She will face four-term Republican Representative Kevin Yoder. Democrats are targeting Yoder this fall because Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in the 2016 presidential race.

Republicans hold all four Kansas seats in the US House, but Democrats hope to flip two of them in November.

Davids marked her victory with a Wednesday morning fundraising email to supporters that started: "We did it!"

"You told me you needed someone who lives your struggles. You told me you needed someone who listens when you speak. You told me you needed someone who knows your experience," the email said.

More women against Trump

The strong number of female candidates comes midway through the term of Trump, whose inauguration in January 2017 was met the next day with a huge march in Washington in favour of women's rights.

The gender gap in the 2016 election was the largest in election polling history. Men voted for Trump by 11 percent and women voted for Clinton by 13 percent. The gap has carried over into Trump’s presidency. His average approval rating in his first year in office was 45 percent among men and 33 percent among women, roughly double the gender gap of his three predecessors.

Historically, women have been more likely to identify as Democrats and men as Republicans. But this year’s polling data shows that even more women than usual are moving away from the Republican Party. Men of all races say they intend to vote for Republican candidates 50-38 while women say they intend to vote for Democratic candidates 58-33.

Despite the numbers, Republican female candidates are not playing the gender card and many are running as allies of Trump, not as the resistance.

Arizona Representative Martha McSally, the first female fighter pilot to fly a combat mission, is running against physician Kelli Ward to become the Republican nominee for Senate.

She told the Real Clear Politics website that she would be honoured to be the first woman senator from Arizona, but emphasised that her experience as a fighter pilot taught her “that what really matters is how well you fly the plane and hit your targets”.

The surge in female candidates also comes as the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment of women by men in powerful positions has marked a watershed moment in US society.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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