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The 2018 primary season is officially over, and thanks to Rhode Island voters, Gov. Gina Raimondo became the record-breaking 16th woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination this year. But a grim development reminded female candidates — and, you know, women everywhere — why American politics is experiencing the second so-called Year of the Woman.
California professor Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party in the 1980s. The allegation spurred at least one female senator to demand men “do the right thing” and back a formal investigation — and Ford said she won’t testify without one. But for now, an investigation looks unlikely, and Republicans seem hellbent on pushing Kavanaugh's nomination through.
Rhode Island won't send any women to the House.
- Incumbent Gov. Raimondo triumphed in the Democratic primary Tuesday.
- No women won nominations for the U.S. House this year, because, well, no women ran for them. Not only is Rhode Island the only state where zero women ran for the House but its current congressional delegation also has no women.
An activist-actress lost her chance to become New York’s next governor.
- Democrat Cynthia Nixon’s bid to unseat Gov. Andrew Cuomo remained a pipe dream. Though Nixon’s progressive campaign pushed Cuomo further left, she ultimately lost by more than 30 points.
- Letitia “Tish” James became the first black woman to win a statewide major party nomination in New York when she picked up the Democratic nod for attorney general. That race split wide open last May, when Eric Schneiderman resigned after the New Yorker reported that four women had accused him of what the magazine called “non-consensual physical violence," which he denies.
- Down-ballot progressive women — like Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, and the endlessly controversial Julia Salazar — toppled Democrat incumbents, many of which regularly (and notoriously) caucused with Republicans.
FYI: Alright, technically, not all of the primaries are done: Louisiana still has a so-called “jungle primary” set for Nov. 6 — as in, the day that every other state holds its general election. And party doesn’t matter much in the jungle: All the candidates compete against one another, regardless of party. If no one candidate can capture the majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters will head to a Dec. 8 runoff.
The allegations against Kavanaugh, explained. California Democrat and Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein received a letter detailing Ford’s explosive allegations against Kavanaugh in late July. But Feinstein sat on the letter until last week and refused to let even her Democratic colleagues see it. That choice infuriated conservatives, who accused Feinstein of using the letter as a grenade set to explode at the last minute, and bewildered liberals, who think Feinstein should’ve questioned Kavanaugh more intensely during his confirmation hearings. (Kavanaugh, by the way, denies the allegations.)
Senate Judiciary Committee member and Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono is particularly incensed. "I just want to say to the men of this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing. For a change,” the Hawaii politician told reporters. Feinstein, Hirono, and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris have joined the rest of the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee in asking the FBI to investigate the accusation. Ford, who’s now receiving death threats, said she won’t testify until that happens.
History repeats itself: Feinstein was initially elected to the Senate in 1992 as California’s first female senator. That year sparked the first Year of the Woman, when huge numbers of enraged women ran for Congress after watching Anita Hill accuse now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment (and then get grilled by the Senate).
Kavanaugh critics are putting their money where their mouths are. If Maine Sen. Susan Collins votes for Kavanaugh, a crowdfunding campaign has pledged to donate more than $1.4 million to her 2020 opponent’s campaign. As one of the few Senate Republicans who supports abortion rights, Collins is a pivotal vote in Kavanaugh’s nomination process. If Kavanaugh lied about the sexual assault allegations, “that would be disqualifying,” Collins told reporters Monday.
FYI: As of Thursday, nearly 60 percent of the donors to the crowdfunding campaign are women, Broadly reported.
A Democrat running in one of the Senate’s most heated races once led an activist group whose flyers proclaimed, “Government is slavery.” Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is now one of the last remaining members of the conservative-leaning “Blue Dog Coalition.” But in the early 2000s, according to CNN, Sinema led an anti-war group fond of flyer slogans like “You can help us push back U.S. terror in Iraq and the Middle East” and "Stop the OILigarchy.” (Get it?) Her spokesperson told CNN that she backs the military and didn't approve the flyers, but the report isn’t good news for her campaign: Sinema already had to fight off attacks by her Republican opponent and veteran Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, who accused Sinema of “denigrating our service.”
FYI: Winning back the House is a long-cherished liberal dream. But political analysts now believe that even the Senate is “in play” for Democrats — a proposition that could hinge on a victory for Sinema, who’s polling an average of 1.5 points ahead of McSally.
The results of the Massachusetts primaries are in — two weeks after voters went to the polls. A recount found Tuesday that Lori Trahan defeated nine competitors to nab the Democratic nomination for the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The close race, which Trahan ultimately won by just 145 votes, is now prompting questions about whether Massachusetts should adopt ranked choice voting, where voters list candidates by preference. (Yes, it’s confusing.) In November, Maine will become the first state to use ranked choice voting for statewide elections.
Anita Hill’s legacy lives on atop Capitol Hill. The #MeToo movement first revived interest in the Hill hearings, which provoked a nationwide reckoning with sexual harassment. (Glad we solved that one.) Now, we’ve come full circle: The Year of the Woman 2.0 is not only in full-swing, but Ford seems poised to become a Hill 2.0 herself. If you’re unfamiliar with what, exactly, went down in 1991, Jill Abramson wrote a biting New York Magazine story about how Democrats bungled the hearings, way back in February. She wrote of the case:
It’s well worth inspecting, in part as a case study, in how women’s voices were silenced at the time by both Republicans and Democrats and as an illustration of what’s changed — and hasn’t — in the past 27 years (or even the last year). After all, it’s difficult to imagine Democrats, not to mention the media, being so tentative about such claims against a nominated justice today.
FYI: When Hill testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee almost three decades ago, it was completely comprised of white men. Three senators who conducted those hearings remain on the committee.
Cops stopped another black female candidate while she canvassed. A neighbor called the police on Shelia Stubbs, a candidate for Wisconsin’s 77th Assembly District, while she knocked on doors in August. While Stubbs went on to win the Democratic nomination — and has no opponent in the general — she told the Cap Times Wednesday that the experience was “degrading” and “insulting.” This is at least the second time police have stopped a black woman while she campaigned this year: A cop approached Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum in July, after a woman complained that Bynum had “no apparent reason” to walk up to houses.
If female candidates win dozens of closely contested House and Senate races, women could make up almost a quarter of Congress for the first time, Bloomberg found. (Reminder: Women make up about half of all Americans.) Up to 40 women could join the House, which currently has only 84 women among its 435 members. And Arizona’s woman-versus-woman Senate battle is guaranteed to send at least one more to Congress’ 100-member upper chamber, which now includes 23 women.
But all that is, of course, based on several ifs. While 234 women have won major party nominations for the House, 184 are non-incumbents. Of those, 119 are not favored to win, the Washington Post found.
“This field can be intimidating — you’ve got consultants and you’ve got theories about how to get stuff done. And you shouldn’t feel like you can’t rely on your own instincts to win your race. I would much rather win or lose based on what I thought.”
— Nellie Gorbea, Rhode Island Secretary of State and the first Latina to be elected to Rhode Island statewide office
Gorbea ran unopposed in her Democratic primary last week, but when she first ran four years ago, she told me that she was far from the establishment pick. “My opponent spent three times more money than I spent,” Gorbea said. “He had been endorsed by the entire Democratic establishment and the labor union. And I still went out there and campaigned really hard.” She won.
In a era when secretaries of state — who are usually states’ chief election officials — are facing mounting scrutiny over election integrity and voter suppression, Gorbea became one of the few to successfully persuade her legislature to modernize election technology. She just wants people to understand how government works.
“The reasons people don’t vote are not just, ‘Ugh, I don’t think voting matters.’ It’s a combination of a drumbeat from the media saying, ‘Your vote doesn’t matter, it’s already been bought out by the corporations,’ and you have a really busy life,” Gorbea said. That’s why she tells voters about her win in 2014: “Look at my race. Nobody thought I could win.”
Politicians will do just about anything for a vote: rap, get sprayed in the face with an unidentified yellow liquid, and use the phrase “vagenda.” On camera. VICE News’ Ben Craw took a look at this year’s most insane midterm ads.
More than 100 of the House’s 193 Democrats, as well as several senators eyeing 2020 presidential runs, formed the Expand Social Security Caucus last week — another signal that the party is tilting ever more to the left. “It’s become increasingly clear that [seniors] are facing a retirement crisis,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren told VICE News’ Alex Thompson.