5 Ways Women Won Big on the First Trump-Era Election Night

November 8, 2017, 4:24 PM UTC

One ongoing narrative of 2017 is how the presidential victory of Donald Trump last year has inspired a record number of women to pursue politics. In August, Emily’s List, a group that supports pro-choice Democratic women, said it had received inquires about running for office from 16,000 women—an unprecedented total—since last November. The outpouring of interest has been so overwhelming that the organization has had to expand its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Election Day on Tuesday marked another chapter in this story, as it presented voters with their first opportunity to consider female candidates in the Trump era. At the same time, the contests gave female voters a fresh chance to exercise their electoral power at the ballot box.

Here are some of the ways in which women won in the first nation-wide elections since 2016:

Women push Northam over the finish line

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam Holds Election Night Gathering In Fairfax, Virginia
Northam greeted supporters at an election night rally/Win McNamee Getty Images
Win McNamee Getty Images

In arguably the biggest contest of Election Day 2017, women voters helped give Ralph Northam, a Democratic hopeful for Virginia governor, a surprisingly decisive victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in a race that was largely seen as a referendum on Trump. Northam won the female vote by 22 percentage points, eclipsing the 17-point advantage Hillary Clinton won in the state in her bid for the White House last year.

Jenny Durkan wins Seattle’s mayoral race

Seattle Mayoral candidate Jenny Durakn speaks at a podium at a political rally.
Durkan with supporters in August. Alan Berner — AP
Alan Berner — AP

A woman was bound to become Seattle’s next mayor as two female Democrats faced off in the race to replace Mayor Ed Murray, who resigned in September amid child sex abuse allegations. Jenny Durkan, a former U.S. attorney, and Cary Moon, an urban planner and activist, emerged as the top two vote-getters in a competitive primary earlier this year, but Durkan is the projected winner of Tuesday’s general contest. The victory will make her the city’s first female mayor in nearly a century.

Danica Roem ousts 13-term incumbent

Danica Roem raises her arms in celebration after winning her election
Roem celebrates as polls close on Tuesday. The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post The Washington Post/Getty Images

Former journalist Danica Roem sought to make her bid for a Virginia House of Delegates seat about her platform issues: jobs, schools, and traffic. But her female gender identity and the background of her incumbent opponent Robert Marshall—a socially-conservative Republican who’s sought to limit LGBT rights—meant that the race focused largely on the fact that Roem is a transgender woman. At one point in the campaign, Marshall approved mailers that accused Roem of wanted to teach “transgenderism” to kindergarteners. But after out-raising Marshall 3-to-1 with backing from LGBT advocates and supporters, Roem triumphed, becoming the United States’ first-ever openly-transgender state legislator.

Vi Lyles clinches Charlotte mayorship

Vi Lyles embraced by Negro League Baseball player Bill Cathcart at stadium
Lyles with former Negro League player Bill Cathcart in April. Charlotte Observer TNS via Getty Images
Charlotte Observer TNS via Getty Images

Voters in Charlotte elected former city council member Vi Lyles as its first-ever African American woman mayor. Lyles defeated incumbent Jennifer Roberts in a September primary and claimed victory in Tuesday’s election with a 18-point margin over councilman Kenny Smith—more than triple the advantage Roberts won two years ago. Charlotte and its state of North Carolina have endured social and political turmoil in recent years due business backlash against its “bathroom bill” and protests over the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man confronted by officers while possessing a gun.

“Charlotte has been the center of a lot this year,” Lyles said in her victory speech Tuesday night. “And I believe that today we’ve closed that chapter of the book and we’re going to begin to talk about the incredible future that we have before us.”

2 women left standing in Atlanta

Mary Norwood, left, and Keisha Lance Bottoms.Getty Images
Getty Images

Two female candidates emerged from the crowded field of hopefuls vying to succeed term-limited Mayor Kasim Reed. In a field of nearly a dozen, no single candidate captured more than 50% of the vote, but councilwomen Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood ended up as the top vote-getters, winning 27% and 21% of the ballots, respectively. They’ll now face off in a head-to-head battle in early December—but the winner won’t be Atlanta’s first female mayor; that was Shirley Franklin who served two terms starting in 2001. Nonetheless, the Dec. 5 run-off will be closely watched. Bottoms is black and Norwood is white, meaning their showdown will continue to prompt the question of whether the next mayor of Atlanta, a center of cultural and political power for African Americans, should be black.

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The Tuesday night victories come as women, who constitute more than half of the United States’ population, continue to be underrepresented at very single level of government. In fact, the United States dropped four spots on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, because women’s political empowerment has declined, reaching its lowest level since 2007.


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