Primary victories fuel new 'Year of the Woman' for Dems

Primary victories fuel new 'Year of the Woman' for Dems

A slate of victories by Democratic women in Tuesday's primaries have signaled that 2018 is shaping up to be a major year for Democratic women.

Primary wins for female candidates have been a recurring trend since the primary season kicked off on March 6. Now, Tuesday’s primaries in Georgia, Texas and Kentucky again spotlighted how women are gaining ground and will play a significant role in key races that could determine the House majority. 

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The boom in female nominees echoes 1992, when a number of women were elected to the Senate in what was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

In Georgia on Tuesday, former state House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams cruised to victory, becoming the first black woman nominated for governor by a major party. Abrams handily defeated former state Rep. Stacey Evans, who ran as more of a centrist. 

Abrams is hoping her progressive bona fides can continue to excite the base in the fall, but she’ll face a tough race in November against the Republican nominee — either Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle or Secretary of State Brian Kemp. 

In Kentucky, former Marine pilot Amy McGrath prevailed over an established mayor recruited by national Democrats in the race to unseat GOP Rep. Andy BarrGarland (Andy) Hale BarrMidterms will show voters are tired of taking back seat to Wall Street Lawmakers demand answers from Mnuchin on Trump tariffs Overnight Health Care: Trump officials want more time to reunite families | Washington braces for Supreme Court pick | Nebraska could be next state to vote on Medicaid expansion MORE

McGrath, who has a compelling background, gained national attention last summer when her announcement video went viral. The video highlighted how she became the first female Marine to fly an F/A-18 in combat. 

As McGrath was building out her campaign, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, a popular politician from the district’s largest city, jumped into the race late last year. Gray’s entry scrambled the Democratic primary, setting up a costly fight for the nomination.

Still, McGrath appeared to be the slight favorite heading into election day and ultimately bested Gray by 8 points.

Following the victory, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released an internal poll conducted last month that showed McGrath leading Barr by 15 points. While the Kentucky Republican is a top target for Democrats, it’ll be a tough terrain for the party to navigate. President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE won the 6th District by more than 15 points in 2016. 

Democratic women on both the statewide and federal level also had a good night in Texas.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez won her primary in Texas, becoming the state’s first-ever openly gay and Latina gubernatorial nominee from a major party. But Valdez will face long odds in her attempt to unseat GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November.

A few women prevailed in Texas House primary runoffs in seats that will be heavily targeted by Democrats in November.

In Texas’s 7th District, which captivated the political world amid national Democrats’ intervention, attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher won the runoff and will face GOP Rep. John CulbersonJohn Abney CulbersonDem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Cook Political Report got it wrong: Reps. Sessions and Culberson’s districts are not 'toss-ups' MORE.

Fletcher, who was backed by EMILY’s List, defeated activist and journalist Laura Moser, who had been endorsed by a number of national progressive groups but targeted by the DCCC, which considered her a bad candidate for the general election.

In Texas’s 23rd District, Gina Ortiz Jones also easily won her runoff in another top swing seat. If she wins in November against GOP Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump's Russia remarks put intel chiefs in tough spot GOP rep: Putin delivered ‘classic disinformation’ in conference with Trump GOP lawmaker: Trump is 'getting played by' a former KGB agent MORE, she’d also make history as the first-ever lesbian and Iraq War veteran to represent Texas in Congress.

But one female candidate backed by EMILY’s List, Lillian Salerno, lost her primary runoff to Colin Allred. Alred, a civil rights attorney and former professional football player, was also poised to win the runoff and will go on to face GOP Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson Sessions Nunes leaves in middle of hearing following questions on Russia probe Dem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms Immigration overhaul on life support in the House MORE.

During the Texas primaries in March, Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia won the Democratic nominations in their respective races. Both are poised to make history this fall as the first Latinas from Texas to serve in Congress since both seats are Democratic strongholds. 

The number of women winning primaries could end up having the biggest impact in Pennsylvania, which currently has an all-male congressional delegation.

In the May 15 primaries, seven Democratic women won contests in the Keystone State. At least two of them are heavily favored to win November, thanks to new congressional map that opened up a few more opportunities

One of the most noteworthy victories of the May 15 primaries came in Nebraska, where Kara Eastman pulled off a surprising primary upset over former Rep. Brad AshfordJohn (Brad) Bradley AshfordEx-Dem lawmaker: Russians hacked my email in 2016 In 2018 midterms, Democrats must stop sidelining abortion Election fears recede for House Republicans MORE in the Omaha-based swing seat. 

Eastman, a social worker and nonprofit executive, gave another boost to progressives looking to make their mark in the 2018 midterms — and on the Democratic Party. They believe her victory gives credence to the argument that the Democratic base wants candidates who back progressive issues like "Medicare for All," free tuition to public universities and colleges and a minimum wage hike.

Her victory shocked the political establishment, which saw Ashford as a better general election nominee to take back the seat held by freshman GOP Rep. Don Bacon.