The future is female, diverse, and Democrat
This week’s primary elections in Virginia made national headlines as many watched to see how voters and the political parties would handle the deep divisions that followed Donald Trump’s election. Additionally, many are paying close attention to see if Democrats’ continued success in recent legislative special elections along with the party’s record-breaking candidate recruitment levels in Virginia will be a bellwether for 2018 midterms. The biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s primary? Democratic women owned the election as they fought for representation in the Virginia House of Delegates.
More women than ever ran for legislative seats on Tuesday, comprising 30% of the field. The number of women who filed to run in Virginia was up 75% from 2013. This November, women will make up more than half of Democrats’ general election slate with a record-breaking 40 Democratic women on the ballot.
Remember these women.
Danica Roem’s victory on Tuesday made her the first transgender candidate to win a primary for Virginia’s House of Delegates. If Danica unseats entrenched GOP incumbent Del. Robert G. Marshall this November, she will be the only openly transgender state legislator in the country.
Kathy Tran also saw an exciting win on Tuesday. If she wins the general election in November, Tran will become the first Asian-American woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly.
The Democratic candidate for HD-31, Elizabeth Guzman, also secured her position in November’s general election. Guzman is fighting to become the first Latina in the Virginia General Assembly.
What does this election suggest for Democrats in November?
Roem had been considering running for the Virginia House since August, but said Trump’s election convinced her “there’s literally nothing in my backstory that would disqualify me,” she explained.
Guzman experienced a similar urge to run for elected office. “Trump gets elected, and my son, my 9-year-old, said, ‘Mommy, we have to get out because Mr. Trump doesn’t like people who speak Spanish.’ That decided it,” Guzman said. “My district is incredibly diverse, and I think it is time to bring that diversity to Richmond.”
The spike in candidate recruitment and voter turnout are likely indicators of general election success for Commonwealth Democrats. In 2015, only six districts held Democratic primaries which yielded about 30,000 votes. Tuesday’s election saw a noticeable increase with 20 districts holding Democratic primaries and over 120,000 votes cast.
An increase of women candidates combined with a more diverse candidate pool and the dramatic increase in the number of contested districts spells a bright future for Virginia Democrats.