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Women won more state legislative seats this year than ever before

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State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi at a campaign event in July.
State
Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi at a campaign event in
July.

Hollis Johnson/Business
Insider


  • Much attention has been paid to the wave of women elected to
    go to Washington this fall, but women are also storming politics
    at the local levels. 
  • More than 2,000 women will serve in state legislatures next
    year — growing the number of women in local chambers by several
    hundred and breaking previous records for female representation.
  • But the work of the so-called “pink wave” isn’t done. Men
    will continue to make up just over three quarters of state
    lawmakers across the country.

Much attention has been paid to the wave of women elected to go
to Washington this fall, but women are also storming politics at
the local levels. 

More than 2,000 women will serve in state legislatures next year
— growing the number of women in local chambers by several
hundred and breaking previous records for female representation,
according to new reports from the Center for American
Women and Politics at Rutgers University (CAWP). 

And these numbers could grow even larger, as the Associated Press
has yet to call 216 state legislative races, which include about
185 female candidates. While women remain small minorities in the
vast majority of bodies, they could end up making up majorities
in the Colorado House and Nevada Assembly. 

“We are very encouraged by these results. This is the largest
increase in women’s representation in state legislatures we’ve
seen in some time, after more than a decade of relative
stagnation,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Rutgers center, told
the AP. “The only question that remains is whether 2018 was a
one-off or a new norm.”

Right now, 1,875 of the country’s
7,383 state lawmakers
are women. Sixty-one percent of these
women are Democrats, while about 37% are Republicans. Experts
have pointed out that as long as women struggle to gain a
foothold in the Republican Party, their overall numbers won’t
rise much above the 25% mark. 

The last surge of women winning state legislative seats was
in
the 1970s and 1980s
, but in the decades since, female
representation in these bodies has remained relatively stagnant.
This year’s enthusiasm among female candidates, voters,
volunteers, and donors was in part fueled by deep-seated
anti-Trump sentiment and the #MeToo movement, which have grown

the gender gap
between Democrats and Republicans to historic
highs. 

While more women than ever before will sit in the US
Congress next year, women didn’t manage to break records in the
Senate or in governors’ mansions.

Experts say there is a host of reasons why female candidates are
running in larger numbers, including anger at the current
administration and frustration with the imbalance in power at
every level of politics. There’s also evidence that women,
particularly when running in Democratic primaries, can use their
gender to their advantage. 

“I think we’re getting closer to a time when we can talk about
gender and particularly the gender experience you have as a
credential for office and not as a hurdle that you have to
overcome or avoid,” Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Rutgers
center, told
INSIDER
in August
.

But the so-called “pink wave” has much work left to do. Men will
continue to make up just over three quarters of state lawmakers
across the country.

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