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Is it the "Year of The Woman" Again?

A record number of women are running for public office

Chris Miller Feb 21, 2018 16:00 PM

Maybe it's being sick of misogyny. Maybe it's putting on a magenta hat and marching. Maybe, just maybe, it's the rhetoric spewed by our current Commander in Chief. Whatever it is, a record number of women are running for public office this year.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the number of Democratic women likely challenging incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives is up nearly 350 percent from 2016. There are at least 79 women exploring runs for governor in 2018, including incumbent Gov. Kate Brown in Oregon. Of the 45 open U.S. House seats, 43 women are running.

"This administration has consistently demonstrated a lack of respect for women," said Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who's running in the Democratic primary in hopes of unseating Rep. Greg Walden. "Rather than accept this, women are stepping up to demonstrate a new model of leadership. Our country has a long tradition of strong women. It's time for our leadership to reflect that strength."

"I believe that women have become empowered to run for office and to stand up to the unacceptable attacks on the well-being of hardworking Americans and our communities," said Dr. Jenni Neahring, who's also running in the Democratic primary against McLeod-Skinner. "The past year has been marked by division and fear, and I could no longer stay on the sidelines as the Republican Congress tried to rip health care from our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, while stacking the deck to benefit corporations and the wealthiest Americans."

In Oregon, there are eight Democrats looking to unseat Walden for Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Bend. Neahring, a Bend doctor who works in Salem, and McLeod-Skinner, who's based part-time in Terrebonne, are two of the many women running this year.

"I am running to represent Oregon's 2nd Congressional District because I have seen first-hand the consequences of bad federal policy on everyday Oregonians," Neahring said.

"Walden is no longer a moderate Republican," McLeod-Skinner said. "He is shaping and promoting an extremist agenda that favors corporate interests and his own political gain in Washington, D.C., rather than helping the people of our district."

In the past decade, four women have run—either in the primary or the general election—for Oregon's District 2, versus 15 men. Bend's House District 54 has seen two women run in the past 10 years, versus five men, with Democrat Judy Stiegler emerging successful in 2010. This year, Cheri Helt announced her bid for House 54 in January, but as yet is not on the Secretary of State's page as a confirmed candidate. There is one man—Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, a Democrat, registered to run for House 54. This year, candidate Eileen Kiley, a Democrat, represents the first woman to run for House District 53 in the past decade.

Bend's City Council has two women and four men; the Bend-La Pine school board has four women and three men and the Bend Park and Recreation District's board has two women and three men.

But not all women who vote, vote Democratic. According to a CNN exit poll, white women helped Trump get to the Oval Office, voting for him 52 to 43 percent. Among white women without a college education, the gap was even wider, with 61 percent voting for Trump, and 34 percent voting for Hillary Clinton.

Women hold less than 20 percent of seats in Congress, just 25 percent in state legislatures and only six of the 50 governorships. click to tweet

Just winning the right for women to vote was a long road. The Woman's Suffrage Movement started in 1848, when a women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Although the meeting was not the first in support of women's rights, suffragists later viewed it as the meeting that launched the movement. The actual right to vote didn't come until 72 years later with the passage of the 19th Amendment, ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.

The history of women in politics started in 1866, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for the U.S. House, running as an independent from New York. She received 24 of the 12,000 votes cast. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party ticket. In 1887, Susanna Salter was the first woman to be elected mayor, in Argonia, Kan. Democrat Laura Eisenhuth was the first woman elected to statewide executive office as superintendent of public instruction in North Dakota. Martha Hughes Cannon was the first woman state senator in 1896, and Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, was the first woman ever elected to Congress.

Even if McLeod-Skinner or Neahring manages to unseat Walden and Gov. Brown keeps the governorship, women have a long road to travel to get on even ground in American politics. Women hold less than 20 percent of seats in Congress, just 25 percent in state legislatures and only six of the 50 governorships. The vast majority of first-time candidates challenging incumbents—like Walden—lose because of name recognition and cash flow, something the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue is trying to change. In January, donations to ActBlue have raised over $45 million to defeat Republicans, up from $33 million in 2016 and just under $8 million in 2014.

Walden has held his seat since 1999. He's currently the Committee on Energy and Commerce chair and was the chair on the Subcommittee on Communication and Technology. It's hard to say whether the anger some women feel toward Trump will be enough to carry women candidates to victory, especially with the economy looking up and unemployment down.

According to CAWP, 1992 was the last time so many women ran for office, thought to be buoyed by the Senate's Judiciary Committee's treatment of Anita Hill when she testified about being harassed by Clarence Thomas. The backlash saw 29 women running for Senate seats—11 won their primaries—and 222 filed for House seats, with 106 winning those primaries. The result was 24 women winning election to the House for the first time, and three elected to the Senate. Will 2018 eclipse these numbers? We'll find out in November.