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Women set new record in state legislatures

Women set new record in state legislatures
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More than 2,000 women will take office next year in state legislatures across the country, a number that smashes the previous record for women who have held legislative seats.

A tally by the Center for American Women in Government at Rutgers University shows at least 1,743 women won state legislative seats in last week's midterm elections. That number will grow; 185 races with at least one woman still in the running have yet to be called.

Those who win will join the 276 women who hold seats that were not up for election on Tuesday.

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All told, that means at least 2,019 — and as many as 2,200 — women will serve in state legislatures across the country. That's at least 27 percent of the 7,383 seats that exist in 99 state legislative chambers, a higher percentage than the number of women who serve in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

"This is the largest increase in women's representation in state legislatures we've seen in some time, after more than a decade of relative stagnation," said Debbie Walsh, who directs the center. "The only question that remains is whether 2018 was a one-off or a new norm."

The increase in the number of women in state legislatures was driven entirely by Democratic candidates. The number of Democratic women in legislatures will grow by at least 219 seats in the new year, while the number of Republican women who serve in legislatures will decline.

There will be at least 1,363 Democratic female legislators next year and 637 Republican women. Another 19 women are independents or technically nonpartisan.

Nevada's state Assembly and Colorado's state House both have higher percentages of women in office than any other state legislative chambers. If women win all the outstanding races to be called in both states, those chambers would be split evenly between men and women.

Only one legislative chamber has ever been made up of a majority of women. That happened in 2009, when 13 of the 24 members of the New Hampshire state Senate were women.

More than a year after the Women's March, and after a concerted effort by Democratic groups to get them to run, more women ran for office this year than ever before — and more women will serve in office beginning next year as a result. At least 101 women won seats in Congress, an increase of 16 over the last Congress. Nine women will govern states next year, tying the previous record set back in 2004.