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Here's how much women killed it in Tuesday's primaries

A historic 11 women, including eight Democrats and three Republicans, have now been nominated for governor's mansions.

by Carter Sherman
Aug 8 2018, 7:15pm

More women than ever are running for political office. Sign up for our newsletter following them.

We’re hurtling into the home stretch of primaries. Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington all had primaries Tuesday, leading women to make history in races across the country. Now, there’s just 90 days left before the Nov. 6 midterms.

  • At least 23 women won nominations to the U.S. House, bringing the total number of women’s nominations up to 185, according to Gender Watch 2018. (That includes two non-incumbent women of color.) In 2016, a then-record-setting 167 women were nominated to the House.
  • A historic 11 women, including eight Democrats and three Republicans, have now been nominated for governor's mansions.
  • Twenty-five Congressional races for the House and the Senate will now feature all women, which is — you guessed it — also a record.

Kansas

Sharice Davids took another step toward becoming the first Native American congresswoman. She limped to a victory in the 3rd District over progressive Brent Welder — who was backed by the Left’s breakout star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — by just over 2,000 votes. If Davids, who’s endorsed by EMILY’s List, wins the general election, she’d become one of the few openly gay lawmakers in Congress (and the first openly gay member of Kansas’ congressional delegation).

State Sen. Laura Kelly took home a Democratic nomination for governor. But it’s still unclear who she’ll face in November. The outcome of the race between Republicans Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a favorite of President Donald Trump and a voter fraud hardliner, likely won't be settled for days.

Michigan

Ex-state senator Gretchen Whitmer won the Democratic nomination for governor. Polls consistently predicted a win for Whitmer, and she didn’t disappoint (even though Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for Whitmer’s more progressive opponent Abdul El-Sayed, who was fighting to become the country’s first Muslim governor).

Rashida Tlaib is set to become the first Muslim congresswoman. The former state representative triumphed over opponent Brenda Jones in the Democratic primary by about 2,500 votes. She’s now running unopposed in the general election for the bright-blue 13th Congressional District, which includes parts of Detroit.

FYI: Ocasio-Cortez campaigned, hard, for several underdog progressive candidates. But many of her picks lost.

Missouri

McCaskill squashed the competition in her primary. After picking up more than 80 percent of the vote, incumbent Democratic Sen. ClaireMcCaskill is now off to face Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in the general, which is shaping up to be the fight of her political life.

Ferguson activist Cori Bush lost — by a lot. She campaigned alongside Ocasio Cortez for the 1st District’s Democratic primary, but that wasn’t enough to defeat incumbent William Lacy Clay.

Washington

It’s a woman vs. woman Senate race this year. Democratic incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell will officially face off against former Washington state Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison. In Washington, the top two vote-getters in the primary head to the general, no matter their party.

The No. 4 Republican in the House, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, should be worried. Democrat Lisa Brown was just 525 votes away from beating “powerhouse” McMorris Rodgers in the 5th District. Both candidates will advance to the general, and the numbers indicate that Democrats may be able to flip the district come November.

Here’s how much female candidates are crushing it: Even before Tuesday, the women running for office this year were winning. About two-thirds had already gone through their first elections — and around half had triumphed.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is paying for Al Franken’s resignation. After eight women accused Franken, the former Minnesota Democratic senator, of sexual misconduct, Gillibrand was the first to call for his resignation. Now, several major donors in the Democratic Party refuse to support Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, in her upcoming re-election campaign, the Huffington Post reported last week. Billionaire George Soros, for example, told the Washington Post that he blames Gillibrand for pushing Franken out “in order to improve her chances” in the 2020 presidential contest.

Yes, technically, Gillibrand was the first to call for Franken’s resignation — but 17 other senators chimed in with demands for his head within 90 minutes. Plus, it’s likely that Gillibrand, a longtime advocate for sexual assault survivors, would also now be facing criticism if she didn’t stand up against Franken, as HuffPost notes.

FYI: Franken hasn’t ruled out running for public office again one day, according to an interview he gave to ABC News last week.

The battle for Paul Ryan’s old seat isn’t over yet. “Ironstache” Randy Bryce grabbed the nation, and its pocketbooks, with a viral ad challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan. Bryce was hailed as Democrats’ best chance to capture the white, working class voters who’d fled the party for Trump — a narrative that frustrated local leaders, who argued that the press and the national party were unfairly ignoring progressive Cathy Myers.

Now, Myers is refusing to just let Bryce walk off with the Aug. 14 primary. There’s been no independent polling of the election, according to Mother Jones, but Myers’ $1.2 million in fundraising is clearly keeping her in the race. But she’s dealing with another curveball: an ethics scandal.

To make a years-long legal battle short, Myers’ then-boyfriend represented her now-campaign manager in a 2015 lawsuit to force a Wisconsin school district to release records. At the time, Myers sat on the school board. According to her critics, that gave Myers the opportunity to improperly side against the board and give her boyfriend insider info. But Myers maintains she did nothing wrong.

Trump and Feinstein are now feuding about Chinese spies. After weeks of reports that California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein once employed a Chinese spy, Trump decided to blow the situation up big-league (or bigly; I’m still unclear on that one). At a rally Saturday night, Trump told the crowd, "I like Dianne Feinstein, I have to tell you, but I don't like the fact that she had a Chinese spy driving her, and she didn't know it.”

Feinstein used Trump’s favorite medium to fire back: She confirmed on Twitter that she had indeed forced a staffer to leave after the FBI informed her that the staffer could be a spy for China. But the staffer, Feinstein said, had “no access to sensitive information.” The FBI also concluded that the staffer hadn’t passed any important info back to China, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 85-year-old, 26-year veteran of the Senate will almost certainly win her re-election bid, but she’s having a tough time lately. Former President Barack Obama released his 2018 list of endorsements last week, and Feinstein’s name wasn’t on it, even though a majority of his 81 picks were women. She also recently failed to land the support of the California Democratic Party.

We’re not done with primaries yet this week. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who represents Hawaii’s 2nd District and the first Hindu elected to Congress, is expected to cruise through her state's primary on Aug. 11, despite facing two challengers. Gabbard’s popularity in the deeply Democratic state is surprising, the New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh wrote late last year, given that the Iraq veteran espoused some distinctly conservative ideals when she started out in Hawaiian politics. Sanneh writes:

"When Gabbard entered politics, she was only twenty-one, and in those early years she was a social conservative, pro-life, and active in the fight against same-sex marriage. She is now pro-choice and pro-same-sex-marriage: On these and other issues, she has evolved enough to be almost — but not quite — at home in the contemporary Democratic Party, which is increasingly progressive, particularly on issues of gender and sexual orientation. The exact nature and extent of Gabbard’s political evolution is not easy to apprehend, especially since Hawaii is not known for political centrism."

FYI: Andria Tupola, a Native Hawaiian and Samoan state lawmaker, is running for governor as a Republican. She’s outstripped her GOP opponents in fundraising, which is a good sign for her primary chances.

Not only are more women running, more women are voting Democrat. It’s no secret that women tend to vote Democrat at higher rates than men. The phenomenon even has a catchy name: the “gender gap.” But the gender gap between male and female voters in this year’s congressional elections may be at its widest since 1992, according to FiveThirtyEight.

A YouGov survey out last week found that female voters preferred a Democratic candidate by about 15 percentage points, while male voters liked a Republican candidate by 9 points. That’s on top of two other recent polls that found a gender gap of more than 24 points, FiveThirtyEight pointed out.

The findings rival the gulf between male and female voters in the 2016 election, when women tended to vote for Hillary Clinton by 13 percentage points and men for Trump by 11.

“I was in New Orleans in December, and I was on a panel. And some people came up to me afterwards and they asked about Randy [“Ironstache” Bryce], which is awesome. But we have a primary, you know. I feel like we should be talking about the primary.”

— Gina Walkington, a Democrat who’s running for office for the first time and hoping to win Wisconsin's 61st Assembly District. She’s unopposed in her primary, but Walkington’s opponent in the general election, Republican Samantha Kerkman, is the longest-serving Republican in the state Assembly.

Walkington called Bryce and Myers “both great candidates.” But all the national attention to the race for the 1st Congressional District is “a little bit of a mixed bag,” she said.

“The frustration is people not realizing that there’s a primary maybe, people thinking that there was only one candidate,” Walkington told me in late July, when she attended a Planned Parenthood convention in Detroit. “I think primaries can be really healthy.”

More than 400 LGTBQ people are running for office this year (which is, yes, another record-breaking number). But right now, very few elected officials identify as LGTBQ — and even fewer are LGBTQ women.

People who openly identify as LGBTQ hold only 559 of the almost 520,000 elected positions available in the United States, according to a recent report by the Victory Institute, which supports LGBTQ people who want to run for office or work in the public sector. That’s just .1 percent of the all elected positions in the United States.

Of those 559 people, 210 are cisgender women. Another nine are transgender women. Three more are genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or two-spirit.

“The Year of the Woman 2.0” might not just lead to an extraordinary number of women running for office — it may actually lead to an extraordinary number of women winning office. VICE News Tonight correspondent Allison McCann breaks down the numbers.

This week, progressives flocked to New Orleans for Netroots Nation, a crucial stop for Democratic candidates hoping to snag a presidential nomination. This year, as VICE News’ Alex Thompson outlines, the conference’s theme was clear: Talk about race.

“We shouldn’t just be thanking women of color for electing progressive leaders,” California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said at the event. “In 2018, we should be electing women of color as those leaders.”

Whispers started cropping up as early as May that Democrats may have made a mistake by betting so heavily on the Wisconsin mystique of “Ironstache” and ignoring Myers. Thompson and VICE News Tonight correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro dove into the fight for the votes Ryan is leaving behind.

That’s all for this week, 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: Sharice Davids, center front, Democrat for Kansas' 3rd District Congressional seat, takes a selfie with the crowd of supporters at Breit's Stein and Deli in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. (Luke Harbur/The Kansas City Star via AP)