6 Women Candidates Who Could Change the Face of Politics Tonight

In the political "Year of the Woman," more women are on the ballot in today's midterm elections than ever before in United States history. Keep an eye on these six candidates whose pivotal races will shape America's future.

by Leila Ettachfini
Nov 6 2018, 6:05pm

Photo of Lucy McBath via Getty Images. Photos of Stacey Abrams and Gina Ortiz Jones courtesy their campaigns

After Donald Trump's presidential election on November 8, 2016, a record number of women decided to run for office, which helped to make 2018 the "Year of the Woman." These women, both seasoned politicians and first-time candidates, are running for 234 seats in the House and 22 in the Senate. 197 of them are running as Democrats, while 59 are running as Republicans.

But this election is historic for women beyond numbers, too: If elected, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress; Stacey Abrams will be the country's first Black woman governor; and Deb Haaland will be the first Native American woman in Congress, among many other candidates who have the potential to make history tonight.

This election has also seen a surge in progressive Democratic candidates, many of whom, like Ilhan Omar, Gina Ortiz Jones, and Rashida Tlaib, have spoken about running as a response to the Trump Administration.

With over 250 women running for federal office in elections today, it's nearly impossible to comprehensively keep track of them all. We've compiled a list of six women candidates from across the country to watch today, each on the cusp of pivotal races.

If you are eligible to vote, and haven't yet done so, you can find your polling place here. If you aren't yet registered to vote, check to see if you live in a state where you can register and vote on election date here.

Image via Stacey Abrams.

Stacey Abrams for Governor of Georgia

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is running against Trump-endorsed Republican Brian Kemp, who is currently Georgia's secretary of state. Abrams' platform focuses on criminal justice, affordable housing, and healthcare, among other issues. With incumbent Republican Governor Nathan Deal term-limited, the race between Abrams and Kemp has received notable attention for a state gubernatorial race, especially as the state has become embroiled in accusations of voter suppression. In 2017, Democrats tried and failed to flip the state blue, but, with national media coverage and polls calling the current gubernatorial race a toss-up, Abrams may just be the candidate to pull it off. It's not every election Oprah Winfrey herself shows up to canvass for state candidates, but that's exactly what she's done for Abrams, who—if she wins—will become the country's first ever Black female governor. Whether or not she's about to clinch her victory, Abrams has already made history as the first Black woman major party gubernatorial nominee in the US.

Liuba Grechen Shirley for US House of Representatives

Running for the House of Representatives in New York's 2nd Congressional District, 37-year-old Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley is giving 74-year-old Republican incumbent Peter King what's been called the "toughest race of his career." Grechen Shirley has used motherhood as a virtue in her campaign, setting a new standard for candidates who are mothers. Earlier this year, she convinced the Federal Election Commission to allow her campaign funds to be used for child care for her two kids while she tries to win over her district, encouraging other candidates to do the same. "Women candidates sometimes shy away from talking about motherhood, but it's a huge part of who I am," Grechen Shirley told Broadly in August. "My children were my biggest hesitation about running for office, but in the end they were the biggest reason I decided to do it. I want to create a safer and more equitable country for them."

A supporter of Medicare for All, Shirley has championed access to health care, lowering taxes for working families, and standing up for women as main tenants of her platform. During his time in office, her opponent Peter King has supported a federal response to international gang MS-13, strengthening border security, and has called himself "a staunch defender of the State of Israel."

Image courtesy Christine Hallquist.

Christine Hallquist for Governor of Vermont

In Vermont, Democratic candidate Christine Hallquist is running against Republican incumbent Phil Scott. Hallquist is the first openly transgender major party nominee for governor in the US, though she prefers to focus not on her gender identity but on her platforms: taking action against climate change, supporting Medicare for All, and increasing broadband access to rural areas of Vermont to name a few.

“When I look at what Vermont has done for me, I can’t give up enough in response to Vermont," Hallquist told Broadly earlier this year. "I feel such a debt of gratitude to this state that I want to do everything that I can to restore decency, and get us back on the path of being the little state that can show the rest of the country how well democracy can work."

Jacky Rosen for US Senate

The Senate race between Republican incumbent Dean Heller and Democrat Jacky Rosen has had the eyes and ears of those following the midterms as an election that will likely determine whether or not Democrats gain control of the House. Because of this, Dean Heller has been called "Democrats’ biggest Senate target in 2018." Once considered a toss-up swing state, Nevada has voted blue in the past three presidential elections. Heller—who first opposed and now supports Donald Trump (the president has since endorsed Heller)—is considered a moderate Republican, having proposed and sponsored bipartisan bills in his career. Rosen herself is considered a moderate Democrat. Endorsed by both Planned Parenthood and NARAL, she believes in "smart and tough foreign policy" and does not support abolishing ICE. Even without a progressive Democratic candidate, this race will be pivotal in determining whether or not Democrats could win the House majority.

Image of Lucy McBath via Getty Images.

Lucy McBath for US House of Representatives

In Georgia's 6th Congressional District, first-time candidate Democrat Lucy McBath takes on Republican incumbent Karen Handel, in a race that polls are showing will be very close. McBath, who considers herself a social justice activist, was inspired to run after the death of her son, who was fatally shot in 2012. Campaigning alongside Stacey Abrams and other Democratic women in Georgia, she is running on sensible gun control, expanding Medicare and Medicaid, and getting money out of politics. Her opponent Handel is an anti-abortion candidate who is endorsed by the NRA, and calls the Affordable Care Act "the single biggest intrusion into the lives of Americans in decades." Despite Georgia's strong Republican voting history, McBath believes Georgians are ready to turn the state blue. “We are the party for the people,” McBath told Broadly earlier this week. “That’s why we’re going to win.”

Image courtesy Gina Ortiz Jones.

Gina Ortiz Jones for US House of Representatives

In Texas's only consistent swing district, Republican incumbent and former CIA agent Will Hurd and Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, a military veteran, are running a close race in Texas's 23rd congressional district. Jones announced her candidacy after leaving her job working at the Office of the United States Trade Representative under the Trump Administration. Jones began her employment while under the Obama Administration, and thought she could continue fulfilling her role under Trump, but soon realized that wasn't the case. “The type of people that were brought in to be public servants were interested in neither the public nor the service,” Jones told the Huffington Post. “That, to me, was a sign that I’m going to have to serve in a different way.”

Jones is an advocate for "welcoming immigration policies," affordable and accessible health care, and anti-discrimination laws. Hurd supports increasing national security and border security by both physical and digital means, and has advocated for increased military presence abroad. Jones, a first generation American, has focused on mobilizing communities who don't generally have a high voter turnout, among them young people and Latinx Texans. If elected, Jones will be the first Filipina-American Congresswoman.

Stacey Abrams
Women candidates
christine hallquist
Liuba Grechen Shirley