Friday 16 November 2018

American voters send a record number of women to congress

The new intake of representatives could have a stark impact on US politics.

Democrat Jennifer Wexton (AP)
Democrat Jennifer Wexton (AP)

By Juana Summers and Geoff Mulvihill

A record number of women have been elected to the US house of representatives, nearly two years after women took to the streets across America in protest over the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The incoming class of legislators could have a stark impact on politics in the nation’s capital, particularly within the Democratic Party, after a midterm election that was widely seen as a referendum on Mr Trump’s first term.

U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale talks with supporters at an election night party in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale talks with supporters at an election night party in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom speaks after being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A snow covered car with a Trump sticker outside an election night party for U.S Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Helena, Montana, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom hugs his wife Jennifer as he celebrates being elected governor of the state during an election night party in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A man wearing a New York Yankees hat votes during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A person arrives as early morning voting opens for the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Voters line up outside of the Center for Civil and Human Rights ready to vote, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes, with her son Myles, checks in at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes arrives to fill out her ballot to vote at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Mist shrouds the U.S. Capitol dome on the morning of midterm Election Day, as voters go to the polls to decide the control of the U.S. House and Senate in the mid-term of the Trump presidency in Washington, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
The U.S. Capitol is shown as evening sets on midterm Election Day in Washington, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum marks his midterm election ballot as his daughter Caroline and son Jackson, both age 4, watch in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley
Democratic candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham greets diners at Barelas Coffee House on midterm elections day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
People cast their ballots in the midterm election at William Ford Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
Voters line up at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Voters line up to vote as polls opened in the U.S. midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections in Deerfield Beach, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Voters line up to vote as polls opened in the U.S. midterm congressional and gubernatorial elections in Deerfield Beach, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
A woman stands in a polling station at P.S. 140 during the midterm election in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Milford Hayes and his son Myles watch as Milford's wife, U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes, is interviewed at a voting station in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
Stickers sit as an election worker waits for people to vote during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Voters wait in a line inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
People vote during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A golf cart passes a sign for a polling station in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Virginia state senator Jennifer Wexton, Democratic nominee for Virginia's 10th Congressional District, speaks with reporters after casting her ballot, at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Virginia, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

Voters are on track to send at least 99 women to the house, surpassing the previous record of 84. According to data compiled by The Associated Press, 237 women ran for the house as major-party candidates this year.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AP)

Among the new representatives headed to the house is Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia state senator who defeated incumbent Barbara Comstock in one of the most closely-watched races across the country.

And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former Bernie Sanders organiser who won a shock primary victory over a senior house Democrat, will also head to congress.

The election day gains by women capped a midterm election which has been defined by the energy of women, both on the political left and right.

Women not only ran for office at an unprecedented rate, with several defeating white, male incumbents during their party primaries. They mobilised on the grassroots level, and played larger roles as donors than in previous election cycles.

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Donna Shalala (AP)

There was also a historic gender gap that showed women more supportive of Democrats than Republicans. According to VoteCast, women voted considerably more in favour of their congressional Democratic candidate. About six in 10 voted for the Democrat, compared with four in 10 for the Republican. Men, by contrast, were more evenly divided in their vote.

In victory speeches across the country, women acknowledged it has been a ground-breaking year.

Ayanna Pressley, who became the first black woman elected to US congress from Massachusetts, said: “I am so honoured to share both the ballot and the stage with the many visionary, bold women who have raised their hand to run for public office.

“Now, listen, I know for a fact none of us ran to make history – we ran to make change. However, the historical significance of this evening is not lost on me. The significance of history is not lost on me, including my personal one.”

Former health and human services secretary Donna Shalala acknowledged that both of her opponents in the race for a house seat from Florida were women.

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Democrat Ilhan Omar won in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District race (AP)

She said: “This is the year of the woman, and the fact that women were willing to put themselves on the line is important, whether they’ve been Republicans or Democrats.”

This year, women not only increased their numbers in congress, but the new class of representatives includes women from a wide patchwork of backgrounds, adding to a legislature that is expected to be more diverse.

“This isn’t just the year of the woman, this is the year of every woman,” said Cecile Richards, who served as the president of Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, noting the ground-breaking diversity among the women who have run for office this year.

Texas is set to send its first Hispanic women to congress, as Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia both won their races. In Kansas, Sharice Davids, a Democrat running in a suburban Kansas City district, will become one of the first Native American women elected to congress, and the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas at the federal level.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democrats who is considering a shot at the 2020 presidential race, said that the two years since Mr Trump ascended to the White House had ushered a new generation of women into public life.

“Women who had never run for anything stepped up to put their names on the ballot,” she said.

“They ignored the party bosses who said they should wait their turn. They ignored the consultants who said they should cover up their tattoos and smile more, and they ignored the powerful men of the Republican Party who never took them seriously anyway.

“They refused to let anyone shut them up or stand in their way, and that is how real change begins.”

Press Association

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