Primaries foretell ‘Year of Women’ for next Congress

Primaries foretell ‘Year of  Women’ for next Congress
© Getty Images

Last week’s Pennsylvania primary election produced some startling results: things went well for women and for the Democratic Party.

In a state that has 18 congressmen — all of whom are male — eight women won Democratic primaries for Congress. Of those eight, four have good-to-excellent chances to prevail in the November general election.

For the party, the results were excellent in large part because of the victory of those four women. Democrats now have a realistic chance to pick up six seats currently held by Republicans.

To give you an idea of how that would impact the national picture, that would mean six of the 24 House seats that Democrats need to switch to win a majority would come from just one state.


In four of those six districts, the Democrats would be favored to win: Madeleine Dean in the 4th Congressional District, Mary Gay Scanlon in the 5th District, Chrissy Houlahan in the 6th District and Rep. Conor Lamb in the 17th District. Lamb, a newcomer to Washington, won a special election in March to represent the 18th Congressional District through the end of the year and will challenge Republican incumbent Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusLobbying world Conor Lamb gets 2020 challenger touted by Trump The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE in the 17th District this fall.

In two other races, the Democrats would be considered slight underdogs: Scott Wallace in the 1st District and Susan Wild in the 7th District.

Not only did women candidates do well, but women voters dominated at the polls. Consider the example of Scanlon’s shocking win in the 5th Congressional District. There were 10 candidates in that Democratic primary, four men and six women. Of the 59,000 votes cast, more than 41,000 of them were cast for the women candidates, despite the fact that one candidate, Richard Lazar, spent over $2 million and had support of the powerful Building Trades Unions. The final statistics aren’t available yet but it appears that women may have cast 10 percent more of the total vote than men.

Although Pennsylvania is a standout example, it is not an aberration. I have no doubt that when the polls close in November 2018, the year will be remembered as the “Year of the Women.”

For 30 years, the percentage turnout of eligible female voters and eligible male voters has been within 1 percent of each other. But in 2006, 48.6 percent of women turned out in the November election, as opposed to 46.9 percent of eligible men; in 2014, 43 percent of eligible women voted and only 40 percent of eligible men. Because there are more women registered to vote than men, and have been for over 50 years, women have been a significant majority of actual votes cast.

In the 2014 midterms, women cast 53.4 percent of the vote, as opposed to 46.6 percent for men. I am certain that nearly seven-point spread will significantly increase this fall.

It’s clear to me that women are more energized than men about participating in politics and putting money toward political races. Data released by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show that the number of women donors of amounts exceeding $200 surged by 182 percent. If you go below the $200 mark, the Federal Election Commission’s threshold, and count all contributions, that increase rises to an astounding 422 percent.

Women now make up over 46 percent of all donors in the 2018 election cycle. This increase in contributions is also reflected in the number of women who have decided to run for Congress. The Democratic Party reports that the number of females running for House seats — a record 309 — is up by 146 percent from 2016, and the Republican Party reports a 35 percent increase.

Currently, there are only 22 female senators out of 100 and 83 female representatives out of 435. But mark my words, those numbers are sure to change. We’ll have more women preparing to assume office when this election cycle is finished.

Edward G. Rendell was the 45th governor of Pennsylvania. He is a former mayor of Philadelphia and former district attorney in that city. He served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the 2000 presidential election. He is now co-chairman of the Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center.