When Haley Stevens walked up to the well-kept house in Canton on the Monday before the Michigan primary, the dogs started to bark. “Oh, golly, it’s dog alley!” she said, then approached the man getting out of his car to ask for his vote. He went to get his wife, and Patty Domin came out to say she would be definitely voting for Stevens, a former manufacturing executive who was the Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force.
“First of all, she came to my house,” says Domin. “And if there’s a man and a woman on the ballot, I want the woman.”
Haley Stevens won the Democratic primary in Michigan’s 11th district Tuesday, on a day that officially broke the record for the number of women nominated by a major party for Congress and for Governor. Michigan state rep Rashida Tlaib won the nomination in Michigan’s 13th, making her all but certain to be the first Muslim woman in Congress. Former Acting Secretary of Defense Elissa Slotkin won the nomination in Michigan’s 8th. Lawyer and mixed martial arts fighter Sharice Davids won the nomination in Kansas’s 3rd congressional district, setting her up to be among the first Native American women in Congress and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent Kansas at either the federal or state level. And Gretchen Whitmer and Laura Kelly won Democratic gubernatorial nominations in Michigan and Kansas.
Before Tuesday, the most Democratic women ever nominated to Congress was 120, in 2016 — after Tuesday, there are 143 and counting (with 42 Republican nominees, that brings the total to a record-breaking total of 185, with a few races still being decided.) Before Tuesday, only 10 women of any party had been nominated for Governor. After Tuesday, there are 11: eight Democrats and three Republicans.
Many of these nominees are first timers, part of a growing “pink wave” of women candidates who were mobilized to run for office after Donald Trump’s election.
Experts say the record-breaking number of women winning nominations can be attributed to the rise of the number of women running for office in the first place. “More women running in primaries begets more women nominees which hopefully begets more women office holders in November,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
But it’s also a testament to the strength of organizations like Emily’s List, which funds women candidates who support reproductive rights. Emily’s List candidates won in 30 out of the 33 races in which it made an endorsement on Tuesday, including a handful of incumbents (ballots are still being counted in two Washington House races.) According to a tweet from the Cook Report’s Dave Wasserman, in Democratic House primaries featuring one man, one woman, and no incumbent, women have won 69% of the time.
“These are all awesome women running,” says Christina Reynolds, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List, “because mediocre women don’t stand up and run for office the way sometimes mediocre men do.”
And the women candidates are getting voters excited. Several voters Stevens spoke to on Monday seemed to be excited about the number of women on the ballot this year. Marybeth Levin, a 49-year old who works for a merchandizing company, said she voted for a full slate of women candidates, from Gretchen Whitmer for Governor to Haley Stevens for Congress to two women running for State Representative and State Senate.
“I want to vote for someone who is going to be a public servant,” she says. “All the blue women are coming to fix the stuff the men broke.”