"We can't bury our heads": Female candidates are gearing up for 2019 and 2020

The final installment of “She’s Running,” out with a special edition to wrap up the midterms and the “Year of the Woman 2.0.”
The final installment of “She’s Running,” out with a special edition to wrap up the midterms and the “Year of the Woman 2.0.”

Welcome to the final installment of “She’s Running,” out with a special edition to wrap up the midterms and the “Year of the Woman 2.0.” (Thank you, Louisiana, for holding your runoff elections so late in the year.) I know I say this every week, but: This was truly a groundbreaking year for women in politics. One day soon, female politicians may be so ubiquitous that we can retire the moniker “Year of the Woman.” After all, no one ever dubs an election cycle the “Year of the Man,” because that’s just another name for the politics section.


Elle magazine got 27 of Congress’ new female House members to recite the preamble to the Constitution, including Kendra Horn, whose victory in Oklahoma marked the House’s biggest upset. But Capitol Hill is still learning how to accommodate its surge of women. Plus, with Cindy Hyde-Smith’s victory in the Mississippi Senate race, only one state has never sent a woman to Congress. Even as female politicians inch closer to parity, women who manage campaigns behind the scenes are still struggling to catch up.


Democratic women didn’t do so well in this week’s runoffs:

  • Gwen Collins-Greenup lost her race to become the first black woman elected statewide in Louisiana. The Democratic candidate for secretary of state fell to Republican Kyle Ardoin in a run-off race Saturday.
  • Democrat Lindy Miller lost her bid for a seat on Georgia's Public Service Commission in a runoff for state offices Tuesday. (The state's runoff elections for federal offices will take place Jan. 8.)

Michigan’s Republican-dominated state legislature is trying to limit incoming Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel’s power. Attorneys general can often decide to not defend laws they believe to be unconstitutional, as Nessel plans to do with a state law that lets adoption agencies not serve same-sex couples. But the House passed a bill Wednesday that would let the legislature intervene in court cases over the laws. Just one day later, the Senate voted to remove campaign finance enforcement from the purview of Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. Thanks, gerrymandering: Democrats won the overall popular vote for both Michigan’s House of Representatives and Senate, as well as in the Wisconsin Assembly. But due to intense gerrymandering and Democrats’ concentration in urban areas, the party did not retake any of these legislatures.


Former and likely future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pretty much created a position for California Rep. Barbara Lee, who lost her contest for House Democratic Caucus chair in late November. Lee will now serve as the new third co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, which votes on the membership of certain committees, in a signal of progressive Democrats’ rising power in the House. FYI: Though Pelosi won Democratic nomination for speakership, she still lacks the votes to win the speakership outright in a Jan. 3 House floor vote.

Lee’s loss, however, is still a blow for progressives and the narrative that the party’s center of gravity is moving further left. In a bit of palace intrigue — which, you know, spills out of the palace and impacts the rest of the nation — outgoing New York Rep. Joe Crowley reportedly undermined Lee’s bid to become the first woman to chair the House Democratic Caucus. Crowley, who currently has the gig, was unseated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s never been shy about her love for Lee.

Today, in AOC: Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff said that the congresswoman-to-be plans to pay her interns “at least” $15 an hour. Most House interns don’t receive any pay to live and work in a costly city: Just 3.6 percent of House Democrats pay, compared to 8 percent of their Republican colleagues.

In total, five women will serve as elected members of the Democratic House leadership team.


  • Massachusetts’ Katherine Clark will be Democratic Caucus vice chair.
  • Illinois’ Cheri Bustos will be Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair.
  • Michigan’s Debbie Dingell will be a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chair.
  • California’s Katie Hill will be a representative for the freshman caucus.

House Republicans, on the other hand, have elected just one woman to a leadership position: Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who will be chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. In non-Capitol Hill news, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo will head the Democratic Governors Association next year. Raimondo isn’t eyeing the 2020 presidential nomination, but look out for her next move: Her new gig will certainly hook her up with powerful donors and fundraisers.


You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t touch on the 2020 presidential race yet. That’s because we’ve cordoned off this one-time section just to talk about future races. Although this newsletter is ending, female candidates are making moves all. the. time. California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris will decide “over the holiday” whether to run for president, Harris said Saturday. In the meantime, she’s got another headache to deal with: One of her top staffers was involved in a $400,000 "gender harassment" and retaliation settlement in 2017, the Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday. Larry Wallace, who’s worked for Harris since her time as California’s attorney general, allegedly harassed his former executive assistant by, among other things, forcing her to crawl under his desk to change printer paper — while she wore skirts and in front of male executives. “We were unaware of this issue and take accusations of harassment extremely seriously,” a spokesperson for Harris told the Bee. “This evening, Mr. Wallace offered his resignation to the senator and she accepted it.” Wallace didn’t return the Bee’s request for comment, but the state Department of Justice has repeatedly denied the harassment claims.


Amara Enyia (Photo by Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

“We can’t bury our heads in the sand with this president. All we can do is try to navigate effectively and make sure that he does not unduly harm our city.”

— Austin Chamber of Commerce director Amara Enyia, who won Chance the Rapper’s endorsement in the 2019 Chicago mayoral election.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the first female head of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, is not pleased that just one non-incumbent Republican woman won a seat in the House. So Stefanik is giving up her gig to expand her leadership PAC and lend more firepower to women in primaries. “We need to support those women earlier and learn the lessons of how effective the other side was in getting women through these competitive primaries,” Stefanik told RollCall.


Avra Reddy (Photo courtesy of Avra Reddy)

“I got very emotional about it, because seeing all these young women runand then win those seats gave me a lot of hope walking into 2020 and for this year.”

— University of Wisconsin-Madison student Avra Reddy, a 19-year-old who’s worked on Democratic campaigns and is now running to represent the Madison City Council’s student-dominated 8th District in 2019.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t (publicly) sorry about that DNA debacle. “I put it out there. It’s on the internet for anybody to see. People can make of it what they will,” the Massachusetts Democratic senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate told the New York Times. Not everybody is so breezy about the scandal: Political operatives and scholars worry that Warren’s decision to test herself for Native American ancestry not only played straight into Donald Trump’s racist jibes but also bolstered inaccurate ideas about race and slashed Warren’s progressive cred. “If she wants to be considered the leader of our party or the leader of the progressive movement, she needs a reconciliation,” one activist told the Times.


Nope: The Boston Globe is not a fan of a potential Warren presidential run.


Lorena Garcia (Photo by Jaimi Flores)

“To decide to run for this particular seat was actually very easy, mostly because I’m lucky to have amazing representation where I live, in my city council, my county commissioners, my state delegation. And I don’t have that at the federal level in our U.S. Senate. And so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just jump in.’”

— Democrat and Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition Executive Director Lorena Garcia, who’s running for U.S. Senate in 2020.


A total of 24 women will serve in the U.S. Senate, a record-breaking number. Another 102 will serve in the House, which is also record-breaking. (The vast majority of those women are Democrats, who won at shocking rates: They made up 57.4 percent of non-incumbent Democratic winners.) About 2,090 women will serve in state legislatures, a number that is — you guessed it — record-breaking. Two state legislative bodies will even hit parity: The Nevada Assembly will be 52.4 percent female, and the Colorado House will be 50.8 percent female.

That I’m even bothering to list those two final numbers should remind you how far women have to go before they hit equal representation in office in the United States.

“Unbossed and unbought”: In another sign of inequality, New York City — the nation’s most populous city — has about 145 statues of men and just five of women. This week, the city set out to rectify that (a little bit) by announcing plans to add a statue of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to serve in Congress.


Another day, another showdown over the direction of the Democratic Party. If progressives want to turn their ideas into policies, they’re going to need prime real estate on A-list congressional committees — so Ocasio-Cortez is going for a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, a bold move for a freshman in Congress, VICE News' Rex Santus reported.

American politicians are breaking in a new tradition this year: If you lose power in an election, rewrite the rules so that the victor doesn’t have any. Wisconsin state lawmakers, who dominate the legislature, are trying to strip authority from the state’s incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. And it’s making protesters furious, VICE News Tonight's Joshua Hersh found.

Even Republicans have to admit that Nancy Pelosi is great at her job: “Pelosi’s the best,” former Virginia Rep. Tom Davis told VICE News Tonight's Shawna Thomas. Pelosi might be disliked by 48 percent of Americans, but thanks to her strong relationships with well-monied political players, she has weight to throw around — and she does. As Davis said, “She produced Dodd-Frank, sheproduced Obamacare, and she produced a stimulus package when she was speaker. She was very effective from a legislative point of view.”

That's a wrap on "She's Running." But if you want to say hi — or send any tips — email me here. You can also find me on Twitter at @carter_sherman. Thanks to Leslie Xia for the design.

Cover image: Chancelor Bennett, known professionally as Chance The Rapper, endorses Amara Enyia for mayor of Chicago during a press conference at City Hall, Tuesday morning, Oct. 16, 2018. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)