By Katie Ziegler
The election in Virginia has proven to be a tipping point for women in state legislatures.
A record number of women, primarily Democrats, were on the ballot for the 100 seats in the House of Delegates. Those 52 Democratic and Republican women are among the thousands of women around the country who have expressed interest in running for office by attending campaign trainings and accessing online support provided by both partisan and nonpartisan groups.
Last night’s election was the first chance to see if the adage, “when women run, women win” holds true in our current political climate.
Women won. Pending final certification of results, there will be 28 women in the Virginia House next year, 23 Democrats and five Republicans. Including the 10 women serving in the Senate, which did not have elections, the 38 women will make up 27 percent of Virginia’s legislators. This is a significant increase from the pre-election numbers, of 27 women, or 19 percent of the legislature, and the most women ever to serve in Virginia.
The election is also noteworthy for the trailblazing women who will be sworn in next year: the chamber will gain its first Asian American woman (Kathy Tran), its first two Latina women (Hala Ayala, pictured at left, and Elizabeth Guzman), and its first openly transgender woman (Danica Roem).
The New Jersey Assembly and Senate elections saw the number of women legislators holding strong at right around 30 percent. Former Speaker of the Assembly Sheila Oliver was elected lieutenant governor.
Women won several special elections scattered around the country, as well. All of these results combined means that in 2018 there are likely to be about1,854 women serving in the 50 states, an increase over 2017. This is a high-water mark and means that the share of female legislators nationwide will finally reach 25 percent (without rounding).
As filing deadlines approach for the 2018 legislative races, we will have a better sense of whether the Virginia surge of female candidates will be replicated in other states. If it is, expect more shakeups to come.
Katie Ziegler is the program manager of NCSL's Women's Legislative Network.