'I want my voice heard': Women plot runs for office in record numbers

WASHINGTON — In November 2016, Debbie Walsh was worried.

Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, feared that attendance at the group’s upcoming campaign crash course for female political candidates was about to plummet. After all, the first female presidential nominee of a major party — a former First Lady, senator and secretary of state, to boot — had just been defeated by a man with no previous political experience and a well-documented record of demeaning comments about women.

“After the election, I was concerned that no women would want to come. I thought maybe they’d just be too discouraged by the outcome,” she says.

But by springtime, organizers of the nonpartisan "Ready to Run" program faced a different problem. They had to move the yearly summit to a larger venue due to exploding demand. New registrations for the program doubled over previous years, and similar events in states as far-flung as Utah and Oklahoma reported the same deluge.

Now, a new flood of women — many of them Democrats who watched the election of Donald Trump with horror and disbelief — are raising their hands to run for office in 2018, signaling a potential reprise of a “Year of the Woman” that could make 1992’s election of two dozen new women to the U.S. House pale in comparison.

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2018 Women's March around the world
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2018 Women's March around the world
Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Thousands of people participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Andrea Ronchini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
People participate in the second annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein
People gather prior to the second annual National Womens March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
People gather before the second annual National Womens March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds a poster as she attends the second annual National Womens March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Women pose as they attend the second annual National Womens March on January 20, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / Kena Betancur (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Girl Power' during the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. One year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, thousands of people will again gather to protest for equal rights at the 2018 Women's March. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator makes signs during the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. One year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, thousands of people will again gather to protest for equal rights at the 2018 Women's March. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators rally near the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument during the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. One year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, thousands of people will again gather to protest for equal rights at the 2018 Women's March. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold signs outside of the Lincoln Memorial during the Women's March on Washington in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. One year after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, thousands of people will again gather to protest for equal rights at the 2018 Women's March. Photographer: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People participate in the second annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein
People participate in the second annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein
People participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
People participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Crowds gather to participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Codepink activist Paki Wieland, dressed as Lady Liberty, participates in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People arrive to take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People arrive to take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A group of people wearing "pussyhats" ride the subway at 42nd Street as they head toward the Women's March in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
A group of people wearing "pussyhats" board the subway at 42nd Street as they head toward the Women's March in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Women hand out pink hats as people arrive at the Second Annual Women's March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis
People take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
A woman lifts her fist while holding a banner reading 'Hear our voice' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Woman holds a banner reading 'The future is female' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds a banner reading 'Womwn united will never be defeated' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds a poster reading 'Our button is bigger than yours, vote' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian actress Asia Argento (3rdL)) attends the Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Woman holds a banner reading 'The rising of the women means rising of us all' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Women hold a poster reading 'Came for pasta, stayed for resistance' during Rome Resists demonstration part of the Women's March in downtown Rome, on January 20, 2018. The Women's March Rome, designed to show solidarity for the protection of civil and social rights, women's rights and the environment included Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the first women to accuse US film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Women demonstrate against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 20: Actress Asia Argento, who spoke out against Harvey Weinstein who allegedly sexually assualted her, demonstrates against sexual harassment, violence and U.S. President Donald Trump in solidarity with American women during the Women's March along with the #MeToo movement,on January 20, 2018 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
A protester wears a President Donald Trump mask during the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
A protester wears a President Donald Trump mask during the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
People take part in the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Lillian Neubel poses for a photo with her sign during the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott TEMPLATE OUT
Emma Hughes poses for a photo with her sign during the Women's March in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Merchandise is seen for sale as marchers participate in the second annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein TEMPLATE OUT
Actor Whoopi Goldberg speaks to demonstrators as they take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Members of the New York Police Department watch people walk down Sixth Avenue as they participate in the Women's March in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People participate in the second annual Women's March in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein
People participate in the second annual Women's March in outside the White House in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron Bernstein TEMPLATE OUT
Kelly Duncan chants with "Gone 2020" slogan painted on her cheek as she participates in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Demonstrators participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
People dressed as a wall take part in the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
People walk down Sixth Avenue as they participate in the Women's March in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
People hold placards as they participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
A woman marches in a costume during the Women's March in Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Gabriela Bhaskar TEMPLATE OUT
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 20: Thousands of men and women hold signs and rally while attending the Women� March on January 20, 2018 in New York, United States. Across the nation hundreds of thousands of people are marching on what is the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's swearing-in to protest against his past statements on women and to celebrate women� rights around the world. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 20: Thousands gather for a rally at Cal Anderson Park prior to the Women's March on January 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Across the nation hundreds of thousands of people are marching on what is the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's swearing-in to protest against his past statements on women and to celebrate women's rights around the world. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 20: Thousands march down 4th Avenue during the Women's March on January 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. Across the nation hundreds of thousands of people are marching on what is the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump's swearing-in to protest against his past statements on women and to celebrate women's rights around the world. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
Actress Kathryn Hahn attends Respect Rally Park City to celebrate community victories, honoring the one-year anniversary of the Women's March and Park City's March on Main on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN - 2018/01/20: A woman shows the Catalan and Spanish flag during the demonstration. Organized by the Jusapol Foundation, thousands of Spanish agents of the National Police and the Civil Guard have taken to the streets of Barcelona to demand equal salaries with the regional police of Catalonia and the Basque country. (Photo by Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A participant attends Respect Rally Park City to celebrate community victories, honoring the one-year anniversary of the Women's March and Park City's March on Main on January 20, 2018 in Park City, Utah. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Colorado Captain marches with demonstrators during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator marches during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator listens to speakers before marching during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds up a pinata of US President Donald Trump during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A demonstrator dressed as a vagina marches during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rachel (L) and Jordan Roth (R) march with their son George during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators march during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Kaia Watson, 8, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado dressed as a character from the 'Handmaid's Tale' listens to speakers during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Marti Matsch of Denver, Colorado marches during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators march during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
A paticipant holds u pa sign during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sarah Dooly dances as she serenades demonstrators during the Denver's Women's March in Denver, Colorado on January 20, 2018, one year after thousands of supporters marched around the world in defense of women's and human rights. / AFP PHOTO / Jason Connolly (Photo credit should read JASON CONNOLLY/AFP/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: People rally downtown for the Second Annual Womens March on January 20, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The march was held to encourage women to fight for womens rights and social justice through political engagement. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: People gather at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool to rally before the Women's March on January 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Across the nation, people are marching on the one-year anniversary of President Trump's swearing-in to protest against his past statements on women and to celebrate women's rights around the world. (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
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They’re on track to break almost every record on the books. As of last week, 325 women were non-incumbent candidates for the United States House, along with 72 female members seeking reelection, according to data compiled by Walsh’s organization. Thirty-eight women not currently serving in the United States Senate are aiming for the upper chamber, along with 12 incumbents running again. And 75 women have set their sights on the nation’s governorships — plus four female incumbents fighting to keep their seats.

In 2016, a high water mark for female candidates overall, there were 167 female major party nominees for the United States House and 16 for the Senate — well fewer than half the number of candidates vying for one of those spots now.

'A generational moment'

While some of the cycle’s high-profile campaigns feature Republican women — including hopefuls like Arizona’s Martha McSally, who famously said in her Senate campaign announcement that the GOP should “grow a pair of ovaries” — a women’s wave in 2018 would almost certainly be the result of a surge of Democratic candidates.

Ample evidence in public polling shows that women are paying close attention to what’s happening in government, and they don’t like what they see from the man in the White House. Trump’s approval rating among all women was a dismal 33 percent in a January NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, with more than half — 56 percent — saying they strongly disapprove of his performance as president.

When asked which party they’d like to see control Congress after the 2018 election, men in the same poll were about evenly divided between the parties, while women favored Democrats by 12 percentage points.

That Democratic energy is reflected in the number of female candidates, particularly at the congressional level. Of the 397 women running in the House, either for the first time or in a re-election bid, 317 are Democrats.

Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to electing Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights, also saw an unprecedented number of inquiries from women seeking state or local office after the election. In the month after Election Day 2016, 1000 women contacted the group for guidance about running for office, more than the 920 who sought out the organization in the entire 2015-2016 campaign cycle. Now, organizers say, their ranks are 26,000 strong — and growing.

Emily’s List president Stephanie Shriock says that Trump’s election and the subsequent Women’s March — as well as the rise of the #metoo movement to expose sexual harassment — all sparked Democratic women’s enthusiasm to launch new campaigns. But, she adds, their candidates remain most powerfully fueled by opposition to the GOP on policy grounds.

11 PHOTOS
Rising political stars to watch in 2018
See Gallery
Rising political stars to watch in 2018

Randy Bryce (D)

Bryce made waves earlier this year when he announced he would run against House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 2018 midterm elections. Bryce, a Democrat, is a U.S. Army veteran, cancer survivor and union ironworker.

Rep. Scott Taylor, (R-VA)

A former Navy SEAL, Taylor has represented Virginia's 2nd District since he was elected in 2016. He has branded himself as a Republican lawmaker who is unafraid to speak out against President Trump and members of his own party -- recently calling out Roy Moore for allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rep. Seth Moulton, (D-MA)

39-year-old Seth Moulton has increasingly emerged as a prominent House member and one to watch within the Democratic party. He served four tours of duty in Iraq and notably serves as the. Recently, he has advocated for "a new generation" of Democratic leadership.

Rep. Chris Collins, (R-NY)

Collins was elected to represent New York's 27th district on Capitol Hill in 2012, and has since positioned himself as a vocal right-wing defender within the Republican party. He also came out as one of President Trump's most vocal supporters leading up to an after the 2016 election.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.)

Krishnamoorthi was elected in 2016 -- making him one of the more freshman lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Still, the former lawyer with a past of aiding the Obama administration has played an integral role this year in congressional investigations into the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia. As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he has taken many opportunities to speak critically of the clearance aides like Jared Kushner have -- and has firmly positioned himself as a staunch opponent of GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R-AK)

As one of 21 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, Murkowski has positioned herself as a more moderate leader within the Republican party. Murkowski refused to toe the party line on an attempted Obamacare repeal earlier this year, and has since raised skepticism over specific elements of the GOP tax bill and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Rep. Charlie Crist, (D-Fla.)

Crist is one of the more interesting players currently positioned in the political landscape. Once a Republican, Crist served as both attorney general and governor of Florida -- but then switched to a member of the Independent and eventually Democratic party. In his current House role representing Florida's 13th congressional district, Crist has emerged as a Democrat unafraid to take a middle-ground approach in his policy stances.

Sen. Tom Cotton, (R-AR)

As the youngest U.S. senator, Cotton's political future currently looks very bright. As one of the few Capitol Hill lawmakers that has yet to have a public feud -- on Twitter or otherwise -- with President Trump, Cotton was recently on the shortlist to replace Mike Pompeo as CIA director if Pompeo replaced Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV)

Catherine Cortez Masto is the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate.

Governor-elect Ralph Northam (D-VA)

Northam was elected governor of Virginia in the series of "anti-Trump" Election Day victories Democrats celebrated in Nov. 2017. Northam's victory over Ed Gillespie signaled a potential shift in the oft-fraught over Virginia battleground state -- and Northam's gubernatorial tenure will be one to eye in the context of midterms and the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY)

Many who watch politics closely have noted Gillibrand as one to watch since she was appointed to Hillary Clinton's former Senate seat in 2009, and then elected in 2012. Early in her Senate career, Gillibrand used her position as a member of the Committee on Armed Services to chalk up a major legislative win by championing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Gillibrand has also recently spoken out against sexual harassment allegations stemming from both Democratic and Republican offices -- calling on both Sen. Al Franken and President Trump to resign.

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“Our real motivation now is what this Republican Party is doing to us” on issues like taxes, education, health care and reproductive rights, Shriock says. “Women are saying ‘Yes, I want my voice heard. I need to do this for my family, for my community, for my state.’”

Elissa Slotkin, a former Defense and intelligence official now running as a Democrat in Michigan’s eighth congressional district, says that women have also been activated to run because of congressional gridlock and what they view as an assault on basic rights and values.

“I feel we're going through a generational moment right now,” Slotkin says. “We're going through a pendulum swing. And women feel like they need to do more to defend rights that they thought were understood.”

“A diversity of perspectives”

One trend that extends to female candidates on both sides of the aisle is the rejection of what activists call outdated notions of a woman’s path to elected office. While many women once considered a long career in local government or an advanced degree to be prerequisites to run, the new crop of contenders features first-timers who range from military veterans to pediatricians to community business leaders.

“We need a diversity of perspectives to get good policies, a diversity of professions, life experiences, race and geography,” says Shriock. “We’ve been waiting for this moment. We’ve encouraged teachers and nurses and scientists and businesswomen. We sometimes have to remind women that you don’t need a law degree to run for office.”

And, whether they are motivated by dislike of Trump or not, many women with unconventional backgrounds took notice of the fact that the man in the White House was elected even though a majority of voters in exit polls said he lacked the right qualifications for the job.

“Nobody came and begged all these women to run,” Walsh says. “They woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and said, ‘Well, if he can do it, so can I.’”

On the Democratic side, candidates getting buzz from Washington insiders include former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill; former State Department advisor Lauren Baer, who would be the first woman to be in a same-sex marriage while serving in Congress; pediatrician and Vietnam War refugee Mai-Khanh Tran; Kim Schrier, also a pediatrician; retired Marine Corps combat fighter pilot Amy McGrath; and 28 year-old Iowa state legislator Abby Finkenauer, who would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

For the GOP, the list includes female candidates like Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Lea Márquez-Peterson; California assemblywoman Young Kim, who would be the first Korean-American woman elected to Congress; attorney and farmer Tiffany Shedd; former Las Vegas TV reporter Michelle Mortensen; and Michigan oil industry executive Lena Epstein.

Epstein, whose family owns one of the largest distributors of automotive and industrial lubricants in the country, says that her upbringing in a male-dominated industry prepared her well for the challenges of a congressional run. But, she adds, she doesn’t want her gender to be boiled down to “identity politics,” either.

“I can assure you that I am the strongest candidate to represent the citizens and focus on the 11th district in Congress, regardless of gender,” said Epstein, who served as Michigan co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “I am prepared, as a business owner, as a job creator, as a wife, as a mother, and a concerned citizen.”

1992 and now

In 1992, commentators declared the midterm elections “The Year of the Woman” when a record two dozen women won election to the House for the first time and the three women newly elected to the Senate tripled the number of female lawmakers in the upper chamber.

Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, sees strong parallels between that year’s female candidates — many of whom were galvanized by Anita Hill’s 1991 grilling by an all-male Senate panel about her allegations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas — and those motivated by the #metoo movement of today.

Then and now, Lawless says, “there is this general call that women would be able to legislate in a way that was more honest and trustworthy because they are political outsiders, that there are these entrenched men who have generated a whole bunch of scandals and are behaving very badly.”

“It’s a very explicit male-vs-female dynamic,” she adds.

And, certainly, some female candidates aren’t shy about pointing out the advantages they have over their male counterparts at a time when scores of men in power are being confronted over bad behavior.

Dana Nessel, a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Michigan, may have been the one to put it most bluntly.

“Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?” she deadpans as she looks into the camera in a campaign video. “Is it the candidate who doesn’t have a penis? I’d say so.” 

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