An unprecedented number of 256 women are running for Congress this year. Yes, you heard that right. There are 234 women running for the House and 22 running for the Senate. 197 of the women are Democrats and 59 are Republicans. The number of women running is unprecedented, but it is not only striking because of the sheer size; there is also a great deal of diversity in the group of 256. Women from all different kinds of backgrounds are running. There are more female veterans and immigrants running than ever before. Many of the women are young and single, some are members of the LGBT community, and many have diverse ethnic identities.
It may be time for the United States to rename 2018 as “The Year of the Woman.” United States voters and historians originally dubbed 1992 the “Year of the Woman,” after female candidates won four Senate seats and twenty-four House of Representative seats. At the time, this was the largest group of women to enter the House and Senate in a single election. However, today there is a wave of unprecedented women ready and willing to correct the striking imbalance of representation in Congress. Not only would these energized and empowered women change the physical appearance of Congress, but they would also bring many new ideas and ideologies with them. Read on to become inspired by five female candidates who are motivated to dramatically change the demographics and thinking of Congress.
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
New York’s Fourteenth Congressional District
Image Courtesy of The Weekly Standard
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a young South Bronx native who describes herself as a Democratic Socialist. Some of Ocasio-Cortez’s main issues include tuition-free college, criminal justice reform, expanded Medicare-for-All, and a Federal Jobs Guarantee. Oscasio-Cortez’s candidacy has already made history. The 28-year-old is the first person to challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in fourteen years. And she beat him in the primaries. From waiting tables to educating children, Ocasio-Cortez, a third-generation New Yorker who has roots in Puerto Rico, knows firsthand how working families are disadvantaged. The activist candidate is also a believer in intersectionality, stating that she “rejects the notion of choosing between issues of race and class; policy and identity. These issues are woven together. Economic policies have the power to perpetuate injustice or heal it”. Most striking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is her unapologetic attitude towards the opposition. Occasion-Cortez is a strong woman who refuses to apologize for the beliefs she holds. She is willing to confront any challenge or obstacle put in her way and encourages others to do the same. In Ocasio-Cortez’s encouraging words, “They’ll tell you-you’re too loud, that you need to wait your turn and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway.” If that isn’t some fierce motivation for young women everywhere to stand up and speak out, I don’t know what is.
2. Gina Ortiz Jones
Texas’ Twenty-Third Congressional District
Image Courtesy of Huffington Post
Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian Filipina veteran, could possibly make history in Texas. If elected, Jones would be the first Filipina-American congresswoman, first Iraq war veteran, first out lesbian, and the first woman to represent Texas’ Twenty-Third Congressional District. If anyone can prove representation matters, it is Ortiz Jones. While Jones “look[s] forward to being ‘the first’ in a number of ways,” what is most important to Ortiz Jones is that she is not the last lesbian Filipina woman to be elected into office. Ortiz Jones is inspired by her mother, who graduated from the top university in the Philippines and then immigrated to the United States to provide a better life for her family. Ortiz Jones’ background in the military has shaped her perspective on politics. Ortiz Jones wants to bring a public servant’s mindset to Congress because she believes public service allowed her to hold herself accountable. If elected, Ortiz Jones would continue to hold herself accountable to make sure her community is well represented and that all people have equal access to healthcare.
3. Pearl Kim
Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District
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Pearl Kim is the daughter of first-generation American citizens who immigrated from South Korea to the United States. With eleven years of law enforcement experience under her belt, Kim is not someone you would want to mess with. While Kim was working in the District Attorney’s Office, she was diagnosed with cancer. However, Kim’s unrelenting attitude gave her the strength to continue working, eventually gaining a senior executive position in the Office of Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office. There, Kim was able to focus on a very important issue she was extremely passionate about: campus safety and sexual assault on college campuses. While Kim is a registered Republican, her goal is to bring “people together in a bipartisan way to address the challenges facing [the] country”. Kim is passionate about issues such as immigration and criminal justice reform, human trafficking, and increasing opportunities for economically disadvantaged people. If elected, Kim would be the first woman of color representing Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives. Pearl Kim describes herself as someone who “has never been one to be happy with the status quo and…will bring a fresh perspective to Congress”. With Kim’s strong personality, unique experiences, and background, she would provide a voice in government for those who do not feel heard.
4. Lucy McBath
Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District
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Lucy McBath is the the Democratic Party nominee for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, currently held by a Republican. McBath first entered the political arena after her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot and killed outside of a gas station in 2012. After the tragic and unnecessary death of her son, McBath became a national spokesperson for organizations that promote gun safety reforms. She has worked for organizations such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. In today’s America, gun control is a very contested issue, and McBath is one woman leading the way in gun reform. If elected, McBath would continue her fight for common sense gun laws, something many Americans want to see. McBath also has received support from other women in politics as well. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in a grocery store parking lot, believes “Lucy’s determination to prevent more mothers from knowing her pain is exactly the type of courage we need in Congress”. MacBeth’s ability to transform a traumatic event into a platform for social change is inspiring. Taking tragedy and turning it into action is a very powerful tool.
5. Deb Haaland
New Mexico’s First Congressional District
Photo Courtesy of Deb for Congress
Deb Haaland, a former chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, is hoping to represent New Mexico in the House of Representatives. If elected, Haaland would be the first female Native American in Congress. Haaland has centered her campaign around fighting for the climate and environment. Haaland believes “Indigenous rights and the fight for climate justice cannot be separated, and I will fight for tribal nations across the country who are battling the fossil fuel industry in their backyards”. Not only does Haaland have innovative ideas to bring to Congress, but she also has the drive and motivation to get things done. As a single mom who pushed herself through law school, Haaland is ready for any challenge brought to her. Haaland has also faced many struggles in her life, including alcoholism. She embraces her struggles and conquers them; Haaland is now thirty years sober. Deb Haaland has overcome her personal struggles and understands that everyone faces challenges. If elected Haaland has committed herself to help the people of New Mexico, as well as people across the United States, overcome their own struggles, because, in Haaland’s words, overcoming your struggles is what makes you fierce!
Not only is there a record number of women running, but there are also many female trailblazers and groundbreakers that have inspired many with their empowering platforms and remarkable backgrounds. Many women candidates, if elected, would bring many “firsts” to Congress, and many people are here for it. There’s Ilhan Omar running who would be the first member of Congress to wear a hijab, Rashida Tlaib who would be the first Muslim-American women in Congress, and Christine Hallquist who would be the first transgender person to elected to a governor’s election in the United States. Congress has the potential to become a more diverse and inclusive environment. Representation matters. So, maybe 2018 could turn out to be the Year of the Woman as well as the Year of Representation, seeing more women and people of color representing the citizens of the United States. And these women are FIERCE. Former President Barack Obama agrees. Obama has endorsed women running for Congress as candidates “who aren’t just running against something, but for something – to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service” Just like Obama, many people across the country are inspired by these strong women. The country is ready for more representation in government. The country needs women in government. We are ready for a change. These women running for Congress know it, and so do I. Female voices are powerful, and when combined with other women’s voices, they are a force to be reckoned with.