Kunin: Women Running

Aug 7, 2018

Women are setting new records in running for office. The high bar for governor was set in 1994 when 35 women ran. This past May, seventy seven woman set a new record - more than double that of the past.

The same thing is happening in the race for Congress. Three hundred and nine women will be on the ballot — again double the previous number. And while there will be losers as well as winners, we can certainly celebrate that women are running like they never did before.

Ever since I was elected to the Vermont House in 1971 I’ve been urging women to run for office. Five years ago I started Emerge Vermont, part of a national organization that trains women to do just that – and this year a trickle has become a deluge.

When we try to analyze what’s going on, much of the credit belongs to the Trump administration. The Women’s March was the first indicator that women are not going to simply surrender their rights – they were going to protest in the nation’s capital, and in every corner of the country and around the world - even in Antarctica.

Skeptics were quick to conclude that that the march would be a one-time event. Women would go back to their knitting. But it was not to be so, and reverberations from the women’s march are still shaking up the political establishment.

The unheard of happened in New York when Alexandria Ocasio Cortez stunned everyone by trouncing Joseph Crowley, a popular Congressman. And this past spring in Virginia, eleven members of the House of Delegates lost to diverse newcomers.

Some fresh faces are changing the rules. They present different resumes that tell life stories similar to their constituents, who are often poor and struggling. These newcomers to the legislative branch will have an impact. They may even move Congress and the state legislature an inch to the left, like the Tea Party once moved the Republican party to the right.

More women at the table will mean achieving equal pay, and more support for issues like child care. And no longer will 97% of the members of Congress be guaranteed re-election – which is good news, not only for women but for the health of our democracy.