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Indiana sees spike in number of women on fall ballots

August 31, 2018

During the primary election season in the spring, Indiana saw a significant increase in the number of women running for state and federal offices, and the general election will see the same trend.

Of the 89 women who were on the ballot in May, 66 won their races. But the general election ballot will actually feature 72 women running for state or federal office, once you add Libertarian candidates and the state races—secretary of state, treasurer and auditor—in which parties choose their candidates at a convention rather than through a primary.

That represents a 64 percent increase from the number of women who ran in the fall of 2014, when 44 women were on the ballot for state and federal offices. And it’s an 11 percent increase from 2016, when 65 female candidates ran.

Of the 13 women running in a congressional race in May, seven—five Democrats and two Republicans—emerged from their primaries.

Of the 76 women who ran for state office, 59—including 43 Democrats and 16 Republicans—won. But it’s worth noting that 44 of those 59 winners had uncontested races.

The increase in female candidates noticeably favors the left, with 49 Democratic female candidates and 21 Republican female candidates. But Indiana GOP leaders have pointed to the three female candidates running for statewide office as proof that they do support women running for office.

Of 15 Libertarian candidates for state or federal office, two are female.

Indiana is not alone. Across the country a record number of women have won primaries and will be on the ballot in the fall in congressional and state legislative races. Nearly 250 female candidates have won primaries for U.S. House and Senate, and 2,825 female candidates have won primary races for statehouse seats.

Nadia Brown, assistant professor of political science at Purdue University, said President Donald Trump is a major reason more women are running.

Brown said GOP women are campaigning on the idea that they could help Trump understand women and how his decisions impact families, while Democratic women tend to be running in protest of Trump and his comments and actions toward women—such as the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Trump can be heard talking about grabbing women.

She said women have also been motivated to run in an effort to diversify politics.

“I kind of liken this moment in time to what we saw in 1992 after Clarence Thomas became a Supreme Court justice,” Brown said. “Women looked up and said, ‘There are no women asking him these questions, and if there were women there would be different questions that would be asked.’”

During his confirmation process, a former Thomas colleague, Anita Hill, came forward with sexual harassment accusations against the Supreme Court nominee. After tense, televised congressional hearings, Thomas was confirmed.

“Having women at the table is really important,” Brown said. “These are people who feel like they have been excluded.”

Brown said female candidates have a good chance of winning races, but even if there isn’t a major wave of women elected to office, this election will still have an impact.

“Young girls are watching and saying, ‘I could do this too,’” Brown said. “The next generation is learning that politics looks different.”

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