A record number of women were elected to the House Tuesday, nearly two years after women spilled out into the streets of Washington and in cities across the country in defiance of the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The incoming class of lawmakers could have a stark impact on politics in the nation’s capital, particularly within the Democratic Party, after a midterm election that was widely seen as a referendum on Trump’s first term.
As of early Wednesday morning, voters were on track to send at least 99 women to the House, surpassing the previous record of 84. According to data compiled by The Associated Press, 237 women ran for the House as major-party candidates this year.
Among the new lawmakers headed to the House is Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia state senator who defeated incumbent Barbara Comstock in one of the most closely watched races across the country. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former Bernie Sanders organizer who won an upset primary victory over a senior House Democrat, will also head to Congress.
The Election Day gains by women were the capstone on a midterm election that has been defined by the energy of women, both on the political left and right. Women not only ran for office at an unprecedented rate, several knocked off white, male incumbents during their party primaries. They mobilized on the grassroots level, and played larger roles as donors than in previous election cycles.
There was also a historic gender gap that showed women more supportive of Democrats than Republicans. According to VoteCast, women voted considerably more in favor of their congressional Democratic candidate: About 6 in 10 voted for the Democrat, compared with 4 in 10 for the Republican. Men, by contrast, were more evenly divided in their vote.
In victory speeches across the country, women acknowledged the groundbreaking year.
“I am so honored to share both the ballot and the stage with the many visionary, bold women who have raised their hand to run for public office,” said Ayanna Pressley, who became the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
“Now, listen, I know for a fact none of us ran to make history, we ran to make change. However, the historical significance of this evening is not lost on me. The significance of history is not lost on me, including my personal one.”
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala acknowledged that both of her opponents in the race for a House seat from Florida were women.
“This is the year of the woman, and the fact that women were willing to put themselves on the line is important, whether they’ve been Republicans or Democrats,” said Shalala, a first-time candidate for elected office.