American voters send a record number of women to congress

A record number of women have been elected to the US house of representatives, nearly two years after women took to the streets across America in protest over the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

The incoming class of legislators could have a stark impact on politics in the nation’s capital, particularly within the Democratic Party, after a midterm election that was widely seen as a referendum on Mr Trump’s first term.

Voters are on track to send at least 99 women to the house, surpassing the previous record of 84. According to data compiled by The Associated Press, 237 women ran for the house as major-party candidates this year.

Among the new representatives headed to the house is Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia state senator who defeated incumbent Barbara Comstock in one of the most closely-watched races across the country.

And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former Bernie Sanders organiser who won a shock primary victory over a senior house Democrat, will also head to congress.

The election day gains by women capped a midterm election which has been defined by the energy of women, both on the political left and right.

Women not only ran for office at an unprecedented rate, with several defeating white, male incumbents during their party primaries. They mobilised on the grassroots level, and played larger roles as donors than in previous election cycles.

There was also a historic gender gap that showed women more supportive of Democrats than Republicans. According to VoteCast, women voted considerably more in favour of their congressional Democratic candidate. About six in 10 voted for the Democrat, compared with four in 10 for the Republican. Men, by contrast, were more evenly divided in their vote.

In victory speeches across the country, women acknowledged it has been a ground-breaking year.

Ayanna Pressley, who became the first black woman elected to US congress from Massachusetts, said: “I am so honoured to share both the ballot and the stage with the many visionary, bold women who have raised their hand to run for public office.

“Now, listen, I know for a fact none of us ran to make history – we ran to make change. However, the historical significance of this evening is not lost on me. The significance of history is not lost on me, including my personal one.”

Former health and human services secretary Donna Shalala acknowledged that both of her opponents in the race for a house seat from Florida were women.

She said: “This is the year of the woman, and the fact that women were willing to put themselves on the line is important, whether they’ve been Republicans or Democrats.”

This year, women not only increased their numbers in congress, but the new class of representatives includes women from a wide patchwork of backgrounds, adding to a legislature that is expected to be more diverse.

“This isn’t just the year of the woman, this is the year of every woman,” said Cecile Richards, who served as the president of Planned Parenthood for more than a decade, noting the ground-breaking diversity among the women who have run for office this year.

Texas is set to send its first Hispanic women to congress, as Democrats Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia both won their races. In Kansas, Sharice Davids, a Democrat running in a suburban Kansas City district, will become one of the first Native American women elected to congress, and the first openly LGBT person to represent Kansas at the federal level.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the Democrats who is considering a shot at the 2020 presidential race, said that the two years since Mr Trump ascended to the White House had ushered a new generation of women into public life.

“Women who had never run for anything stepped up to put their names on the ballot,” she said.

“They ignored the party bosses who said they should wait their turn. They ignored the consultants who said they should cover up their tattoos and smile more, and they ignored the powerful men of the Republican Party who never took them seriously anyway.

“They refused to let anyone shut them up or stand in their way, and that is how real change begins.”

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