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Women Are Taking Over in Virginia, One Primary Election at a Time

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Women had a particularly good night in Virginia’s primary elections on Tuesday, with the majority of female candidates who ran winning their races. It was also, simply, a day that featured a surge in the number of female candidates.

“The number of women who filed to run for the Virginia Legislature went up 75 percent over the last comparable cycle in 2013,” according to a Politico article which cites Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics. One possible factor for this: the election of Donald Trump, which has resulted in the emergence of several organizations—especially on the Democratic side—focused on recruiting women to run for office.

In races for the 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, 61 women filed to run out of 206 total candidates statewide, including 50 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and one independent. Of those, only 16—12 Democrats and four Republicans—are incumbents. Before Tuesday’s primaries, the Washington Post reported that women accounted for “more than half of all challengers seeking seats held by Republicans.”

Infographic by Ryan Weisser.

And women did well on Tuesday night. 

Of of the 18 primary races that included female candidates, only two resulted in women losing to men: In House District 28, which includes parts of Stafford and Westmoreland countries, Susan Stimpson lost the Republican primary to Bob Thomas. In House District 99, which covers parts of Richmond and Caroline County, Vivian Messner lost the Democratic race to Francis Edwards. Eight more women around the state lost their races, but lost to other women.

One notable win came in House District 13, which includes Manassas Park and part of Prince William County. There, former journalist Danica Roem, who could become the first ever transgender delegate, beat out three men for the Democratic nomination, and will face longtime Republican incumbent—and noted transphobe—Bob Marshall in November.

The sole Republican woman to win in her primary was Emily Brewer in House District 64, which includes parts of Prince George, Sussex, and Southampton counties. She dominated the race against Rex Alphin, winning 60.94 percent of the vote. The closest race was in House District 2 (Prince William and Stafford counties) where Jennifer Foy narrowly defeated Joshua King by just twelve votes.

Looking forward, the November general elections will feature 51 women running for seats in the General Assembly. If enough win, it should push Virginia over the national average of about 25 percent of women serving in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Rosa joined Washingtonian as an editorial fellow in fall 2016. She likes to write about race, culture, music, and politics. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in International Relations and French with a minor in Journalism. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.