Record numbers of U.S. women are making a bid for Congress

A flag flies near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 18. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images.)

WASHINGTON — More women from across the nation are running for Congress this year than ever before, with Kansas leading the way in making history on the ballot.

For the first time ever, there will be a female candidate in each of Kansas’ U.S. House and Senate races in November. All of the Democratic contenders are women. And one Republican woman candidate will challenge Rep. Sharice Davids to represent the Kansas City suburbs.

The Kansans are among a record-breaking number of women making bids for Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

And with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, there will be another historic female candidate at the top of the ballot—the first Black woman and first Asian American to run for vice president on a major party ticket.

“In 2020, we’re surpassing the records of just two years ago, an encouraging sign that we could be entering a new era of women’s political participation,” Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for Women in American Politics at Rutgers, said in a statement.

“But electoral progress for women should be the norm, not the exception, in a political system where women remain significantly underrepresented as officeholders.”

Women hold fewer than a quarter of seats in Congress, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leads the House. In the Kansas State Legislature, women hold 26 percent of the seats.

Democratic women came out in record numbers to run for office after the election of President Donald Trump. That tide of newly elected female Democratic representatives helped to flip control of the House in 2018, leading some to call it “the second year of the woman.”

For this year’s general election, even more women have launched campaigns. A record 261 women have secured nominations for U.S. House seats in the 2020 election—78 Republicans and 183 Democrats. Eight states have not yet had their primaries, so the number could rise.

National leaders for women’s suffrage chose Kansas as their first battleground in the fight for women’s right to vote. A booklet distributed in 1867 heralded their campaign with this verse on the cover: “Kansas will win the world’s applause/ As the sole champion of Woman’s cause/ So light the bonfires! Have the flag unfurled/ To the Banner State of all the world.”

The first resolution in the nation in favor of suffrage for women and Black men was introduced in Kansas in 1867 but ultimately failed. Kansans approved a state constitutional amendment to give women the right to vote in 1912—eight years before the United States approved the 19th amendment.

One hundred years later, women are voting and running for office in record numbers across the United States. In total, 583 women filed to run as major-party candidates for primaries for U.S. House seats this year—227 of them Republican and 356 Democrats.

But while more women of both parties are making bids, Democratic women have been generally more successful in winning their nominations.

“In the last 20 years, Democratic women are winning Democratic primaries more than ever before and Republican women are getting less successful over time at winning Republican primaries.”

“Academic studies show that when women run for office they win just as often as men do,” said Alexandra Middlewood, an assistant professor of political science at Wichita State University. “But, this is still Kansas, and Democratic candidates are going to struggle in most of our congressional districts.”