Democrats have declared that Republicans are waging a “war on women.” And with commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher under fire for the language they have used about women, left and right are twisting themselves into knots to make the case that the other side’s partisans are more boorish than their own.
Meanwhile, there are also practical considerations working to encourage women to run for office. The combination of once-a-decade redistricting and the generally unsettled state of the electorate are potentially opening up opportunities for newcomers.
A number of feminist organizations, including one that calls itself the 2012 Project, have stepped up their efforts to recruit and train women to run for office. Spearheaded by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, the project is working with more than 100 organizations across the country and across party lines to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures.
There are similar campaigns underway in many individual states. With a former state Senate colleague who is a Republican, Iowa’s Lloyd-Jones has founded an organization, called 50-50 in 2020, that seeks to see as many Iowa women as men serving in public office by the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
That’s a tall order, considering that Iowa has never sent a woman to Congress, or elected a female governor. (The only other state to share that distinction is Mississippi; four states have never elected a woman to U.S. House or Senate.)
But all these efforts may be paying off.
While the filing deadlines in many states have not yet passed, there appear to be record or near-record numbers of women making or considering a bid for Congress, according to the Rutgers center.
But it also appears that one long-standing trend is holding up and down the ballot: Far fewer Republican women than Democratic women are running.
In conservative Idaho, whose filing deadline was this month, nearly four in 10 of the Democratic candidates for the state legislature are women, while only 13 percent of the Republican candidates are, said Gary Moncrief, a political science professor at Boise State University.
“In other words, a Democratic candidate is three times more likely to be a woman than is a Republican candidate,” he said. “In Idaho, it isn’t a gender gap; it’s a gender chasm.”
That frustrates many Republicans, given the crossover appeal that their female candidates have shown in general election contests. In 2010, for instance, all four of the women who won governor’s races were Republicans.