A Black woman on a presidential ticket is unprecedented. But Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) isn’t the only one making history this election season.
All down the ballot, women, especially women of color, are running for office in unprecedented numbers — breaking records set just two years ago.
“This year’s numbers are a positive sign that 2018 wasn’t necessarily an anomaly,” Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), told the Guardian. “What this year also points to positively is a continued diversification of the women who are running for office and who are getting nominations.”
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This year, 298 women are candidates for the House of Representatives, CAWP reported, up from 234 in 2018 — although the jump from 2016 to 2018 was even higher. At least 115 of those candidates are women of color, setting records for U.S. House nominations of Black, Latina and Native American women. Currently, there are 44 women of color serving in the House and four in the Senate, where only five women of color have ever held office, including Harris. Women overall are less represented among candidates for Senate, just 20 this year compared to 23 in 2018, only two of which are women of color.
The outlook is good, said Dittmar, although it’s unclear whether the incoming class will match the historic first-term class of 2019, the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected.
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“It’s very clear that, for a long time, decisions being made in our country were a result of one point of view. Now, we have different voices, and we’re representing people whose stories and concerns have not been heard in Congress, so that’s going to be a tremendous change,” Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), the youngest African American woman elected to Congress, told Politico at the time.
Democratic women are the majority of female nominees for the U.S. House. But it was also a record year for Republican women, whose nominations jumped by 80 percent between 2018 and 2020. As for women of color, CAWP reported 82 Democratic nominees compared to 33 Republican nominees.
“Black women have been the heart of the Democratic party for years,” Marquita Bradshaw, the first Black woman to be a major party nominee for statewide office in Tennessee and the only Black woman running as a Democrat or Republican for Senate, told the Guardian. “We vote our values but with the increasing social tensions and awareness, Black women knew it was time to step into our power. For too long, we have been kept out of the conversation.”
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