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Seattle mayoral candidate Jenny Durkan waves to supporters as she concludes her remarks at an election night party Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson/AP
Girls & Women

Women Just Had One of Their Best Election Years Ever

When women run, they win.

Over the past year, more than 20,000 women have signed up with the political action group Emily’s List for information, training, and help running for office — more than any other time in the group’s history, Stephanie Schriock, president of the group, announced at the Women’s Convention in Detroit in October.

And on Tuesday, one year after a presidential election that saw the first-ever female presidential candidate defeated by a man, more than 60 women were on the ballot in races across America.

As results poured in, the results were clear: when women run, they win.

Global Citizen campaigns for gender equality around the world. For the past year, we’ve been closely exploring the barriers to equality in political representation in the US and the surge in interest among female candidates in our weekly series, “Who Run the Gov? Girls!”

You can read the series and join us in taking action on gender equality here.

In perhaps the biggest sign of change to come out of the 2017 elections, the Virginia state house will have at least 23 women representatives when it reconvenes next year, according to Emily’s List. It is a record-high for female representation in the state. Of 55 candidates around the country endorsed by the group, 32 won, three are going to run-off elections, and three are still too close to call, they said today.   

Among the women who helped sweep the house on Tuesday were many “firsts” for the state: the first Vietnamese-American woman elected, the first transgender woman elected, and the first two Latina women ever elected to the state’s House of Delegates.

One of the women who won in Virginia this year was Kelly Fowler, who decided to run against a male incumbent while attending the Women’s March on Washington.

Seattle voted its first female mayor in 90 years into office with the election of Jenny Durkan , an openly gay former U.S. attorney who won over 60% of the vote. 

In the race for governor of New Jersey, female candidate Kim Guadagno lost to her male opponent, Phil Murphy, but Murphy’s running mate Sheila Oliver will become the first black female Lt. Gov. in state history.

And in a smaller New Jersey race, a female candidate who decided to run after a male incumbent made fun of the Women’s March beat out that candidate, according to Philly.com.

Ashley Bennett, a 32-year-old political newcomer, protested county freeholder John Carman’s comments about the march earlier this year after he shared a meme on Facebook that read, “Will the women’s march end in time for them to cook dinner?”

At the protest, Bennett decided to run against Carman, and on Tuesday night, she beat him.

Not all female victors on Tuesday were political newcomers recently inspired by US politics — some of them have been at the political process for decades.

Democratic candidate Vi Lyles became the first black female mayor of Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday night after more than 30 years in city government.

“Quite frankly, if that isn’t the type of dream we have for our children – to thrive in this city – I don’t know what is,” Lyles wrote on Facebook after her win. Charlotte, which has been the center of so much within the last year, has taken an incredible step. You’ve proven we are a city of opportunity and inclusiveness.

“You've proven a woman whose father didn’t graduate high school can become the city’s first African American female mayor,” she wrote.

Even in traditionally conservative voting districts, women saw victories. Georgia’s District 117 voted for Mitt Romney and Donald Trump in the past two elections, but on Tuesday, went for Democrat Deborah Gonzales with 53 percent of the vote, according to Vox.

Women currently make up only 20% of elected officials in the United States.

As Global Citizen has explored the reasons for that statistic in our series of stories over the past year, many experts have said it may take time for things to change; the women who signed up to run a year ago may not win elected office for years.

But this election day, during an off-year in national US elections, was already a step forward to equal representation for women in the US. This year, women ran, and women won.