The campaign manager for a Nevada incumbent is blaming his candidate's loss to a female opponent on a political climate he says has been unfriendly to men in 2018.
In November, Mark Bailus lost his seat on the Clark County District Court to Mary Kay Holthus, who launched a rare insurgent campaign against the sitting judge. During the campaign, which had been managed by Nevada-based consultant David Thomas, Bailus raised more than $300,000 to Holthus' roughly $57,000; still, she managed to best him at the ballot box.
Now, Bailus is applying to fill a different seat on the district court, and, in the process, has attempted to explain the upset with the help of Thomas.
“The defeat was not by any means the fault of Judge Bailus, but more due to the political climate of the 2018 elections,” Thomas wrote in a letter included in the judge's application obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Despite Judge Bailus’ great commitment, he could not overcome the pattern that occurred in all major judicial races between a man and a woman in 2018."
According to the Review-Journal, Bailus had also managed two female candidates—Nevada Supreme Court Justice Elissa Cadish and Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Elana Lee Graham—who both won their respective races.
Thomas went on to argue that some of the "societal factors" stacked against Bailus included the Women's March, the #MeToo movement, and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's September confirmation hearings. Despite making a concerted effort to reach out to women voters—Bailus had "attended events where primarily only women were present," according to the letter—Thomas says the adversity proved insuperable for his candidate.
“It was an extremely difficult year to be a man and defeat a woman in a judicial race,” Thomas continued.
Bailus withdrew the letter from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak's consideration following the Review-Journal's Friday request for comment on it. Sisolak, who's responsible for making the appointment, will choose among four other men and one woman to fill the seat.
It's difficult to find data on the number of women who won judgeships across the country in 2018, though one county in Texas made significant progress toward closing the race and gender gap in the state court system. In January, seventeen Black women made history as the largest number of Black female judges to be sworn in at once in Harris County.
The historic moment tracked with what was happening on the national stage: Last year's midterm elections were defined by anticipation surrounding a second "Year of the Woman." In September, about two months ahead of Election Day, POLITICO reported that white men were the minority in the pool of House Democratic nominees, with women and people of color making up the majority.
“When you look at this large class of women candidates, it’s obvious—it’s no longer your average white guy in a red tie running,” former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee consultant John Lapp told the outlet at the time.
Many of these women went on to win their general election, and now make up the record number of women currently serving in the House and Senate. Even with these gains, women still comprise just over 20 percent of Congress.
"The truth is, we’re not going to make a huge dent in the number of women in office this year," Christina Reynolds, the vice president of communications at EMILY’s List, told Broadly in November. "But this is just the start. We reject the 'Year of the Woman'—we’ll take them all."