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 BarrSchumer urging ex-congressional candidate Amy McGrath to run against McConnell House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Poll shows 25 percent view McConnell favorably, lowest among leaders in survey 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 TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration 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 CulbersonDCCC official says Democrats look to make 'big gains' in Texas, Georgia Democrats need a worthy climate plan NASA lost key support to explore Jupiter's moon 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 HurdWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration GOP rep: Trump emergency declaration puts US in 'uncharted territory' Immigration groups press for pairing Dreamer benefits with border security 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 SessionsGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Top 10 events of 2018 that shaped marijuana policy Washington braces for lengthy shutdown 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 AshfordWhite men now the minority in pool of House Democratic candidates: analysis Pelosi sees defections from an unusual quarter — the left Ex-Dem lawmaker: Russians hacked my email in 2016 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.