2018 Midterm Elections: A Historic Number of Women Run for Office

Karen Lau, Staff Writer

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According to Merriam-Webster, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Equality means that women do not only hold the right to vote and to elect, but to become elected. The first feminists in the United States went by a different name, suffragists. In 1920, they succeeded in gaining the right to vote. 98 years later, in 2018, there has still not been a female President. Even after a century of progress, women are still fighting to be heard and elected. Still, in the 2018 Midterm Elections, a record number of women and minorities ran for office and won. According to data from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, more female candidates ran for the U.S. House (476), U.S. Senate (53) and gubernatorial seats (61) this year than any year. Of the 476 women that ran for a U.S. House seat, 239 won their primaries, 22 women are now their party’s nominee for U.S. Senate, and 16 women won nominations for gubernatorial seats. The results of this election will spark a significant change in our nation’s government.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

At age 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress. She is a Democratic Socialist from New York’s 14th District. She ran a grassroots campaign on a progressive platform that included criminal justice and immigration reform, free college, universal healthcare, gun control, $15 minimum wage, and access to affordable housing. In the June primaries, Cortez unseated 10-term incumbent, Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking House Democrat in the primary, which was a huge upset. In November, Cortez won 78% of the vote to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District. 70 percent of the citizens in the 14th District are minorities; however, she is the first person of color to represent the district.

Once in office, Cortez plans to improve and expand Medicare for all Americans. She supports extending tax benefits to working and middle-class homeowners, and expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. She supports common sense gun legislation, including a ban on assault weapons and bump stocks, and universal background checks for firearm purchases. She wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement and provide a pathway for undocumented immigrants, DREAMers, to receive citizenship. Cortez has quickly become the face of young Democrats, especially women and minorities who want to push the party to the left.  

 

Ilhan Omar

In Minnesota’s Fifth congressional district, Ilhan Omar defeated Keith Ellison to become the first Somali American Congresswoman. At the age of 12, Omar moved to the U.S. as a Somali refugee, and she grew a passion for politics, inspired by her grandfather’s love of democratic governments. In 2016, she was elected as a democratic member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, making her the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the United States. In 2018, she ran on a progressive platform that included “Medicare for all,” criminal justice reform, economic justice for working families, and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She supports passing the DREAM Act and protecting sanctuary cities. She also supports creating tuition-free public education and canceling student debt and wants to create a federal jobs guarantee program with a wage of at least $15 per hour, healthcare coverage, and benefits. Ilhan Omar’s win paves the way for Muslim Americans to run for office and inspire refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. to aspire to become politicians.

 

Paulette Jordan

Paulette Jordan is the first Native American woman to run for governor in the United States. Being the granddaughter of tribal chiefs, her heritage as part of the Coeur d’Alene tribe inspired her to become the governor of her state. In 2014, she ran for the Idaho House of Representatives as a Democrat and won. In her two terms, she promoted progressive policies, including a loan forgiveness bill for teachers. Among her campaign issues were better rural education, wider access to healthcare, and stronger economic development in struggling communities. She also plans to legalize marijuana and protect sanctuary cities. She has defended rural Idaho against billionaires in Washington, fighting to preserve the land. Although she tends to lean liberal, Jordan is also a gun owner and proponent of Second Amendment rights. Even though she lost the election for governor to Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, her campaign, the first time a Native American woman has run for governor in Idaho’s history, will have lasting effects.

 

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams ran to become the first female African American governor in the United States. Democrat Abrams ran for governor of Georgia against Republican Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State of Georgia. As a candidate for governor, Abrams is committed to making housing more affordable, creating educational opportunities for all children, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, enforcing gun control laws, providing affordable healthcare, and advancing criminal justice reform. Her identity makes her a uniquely qualified candidate since she grew up in poverty in Gulfport, Mississippi and overcame her obstacles to become the valedictorian of her high school class and achieve degrees from Spelman College and Yale Law School. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, in Georgia, 21% of African American and Latina women live in poverty. Abrams is committed to addressing the grim realities minority women face, like the wage gap and inadequate access to education. During her campaign, she discussed her shortcomings, including being in debt and behind in her taxes, and how her adversity has strengthened her resolve. In 2010, she became the first women to lead a party in Georgia’s General Assembly. She also became the first African American to lead Georgia’s House of Representatives and spent 7 years as Georgia’s House minority leader. She also founded a voter education group that registered 200,000 people between 2014 and 2016. She was defeated by Brian Kemp in a very tight race, as she only won 48.8% of the vote to Kemp’s 50.3%. Although Stacey Abrams did not become the governor of Georgia, she has changed the way African American women are viewed as candidates for office.

 

“And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” stated Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major party. Women have the power to create change and make a difference across federal and state governments. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Paulette Jordan, and Stacey Abrams are four members of the wave of young women trying to make a difference by running for office. Women will not only reshape the future of progressive politics, but the future of the United States. Women may not have shattered the highest glass ceilings yet, but they have definitely broken barriers and made history along the way. Strong female leadership represented in office will encourage more women to get involved in politics.

The 2018 Midterm Elections will change the narrative surrounding women, immigrants, and minorities running for office. The effects of different policies surrounding issues like health-care, immigration, and gun control will resonate across the country and could define the frontrunners of the 2020 presidential election. In the future elections, we can expect to see more women running for office and a change across our government. It is more important than ever, in this political climate, that Americans, especially young people, educate themselves and others on the issues our nation faces and exercise their civil right to vote. America depends on it.

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