Maryland 8th Congressional District Democratic candidate Kathleen Matthews and fellow candidates took part in a forum sponsored by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors in October. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

The words “woman” or “women” appear 11 times in the seven-paragraph biography on the campaign Web site of congressional hopeful Kathleen Matthews.

Women for Jamie, a group formed by state Sen. and fellow candidate Jamie Raskin, boasts more than 550 members, including Cecilia “Cissy” Suyat, wife of the late Thurgood Marshall, and state Senate colleagues Susan C. Lee and Karen S. Montgomery.

The seven Democratic candidates for Maryland’s 8th District seat know that women — especially those over 50 — are critical to their success in April’s primary.

More than 80 percent of Democrats in the district live in Montgomery County, where women accounted for 60 percent of Democratic primary voters in each of the past two presidential election years. The county has 17,000 “ultra Dems” — those who turned out for each of the past five Maryland primaries. Of them, 59 percent are women.

“The Democratic candidates have a choice. They can connect with women in the 50s-to-70s age groups on issues they care about. Or they can lose,” said Maryland Democratic consultant Adam Pagnucco.

He said the average age of women — and men — who voted in both the 2008 and 2012 Democratic primaries in the county was 63. Like women elsewhere in the state and across the county, they turn out at the polls in greater numbers than men. They also live longer, which extends their influence at the ballot box.

Many of these reliable female voters are retired or are winding down careers in which they confronted glass ceilings and other workplace challenges. They care about pay equity, abortion rights and paid family leave. They worry about their children or grandchildren running up debt to pay for higher education.

That’s why candidate Kumar Barve, a state delegate, mentions his work in the late 1980s as treasurer for the Maryland chapter of the abortion-rights group NARAL and his endorsement by Del. Anne R. Kaiser, a leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

And why former President Obama aide Will Jawando tells groups about his mother, who discovered after many years that she earned less than her male counterparts at a Silver Spring publishing company. In the White House, Jawando helped coordinate women’s and civil rights groups to support passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which strengthens protections against workplace discrimination.

On Tuesday evening, Matthews, Raskin, Barve, Jawando and the other Democratic 8th District contenders — Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, David Anderson and Joel Rubin — will have a chance to make their case to women directly at a Bethesda forum sponsored by the Women’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

Bonnie Wicklund, 72, a retired librarian and ultra Dem from Chevy Chase, said she is undecided on the race and is likely to attend Tuesday’s forum. She is looking for “someone who is moderate, not an ideologue; has legislative experience; and will protect women’s health choices.” She said she wants Congress to find a way to address gun violence, although she is not optimistic that will happen.

Although Wicklund would like to see more women elected to national office, she said that won’t drive her decision. “Issues are more important to me than gender in this particular race,” she said.

Others see increasing the number of women in elected office as more of an imperative. Jane de Winter, 56, executive director of Big Learning, a nonprofit Silver Spring education program, supported former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin for the congressional seat before she dropped out of the race.

De Winter said she knows little about Matthews, who had raised more money as of Sept. 30 than any other candidate. “But I feel obligated to look at her because women are underrepresented in Congress,” de Winter said.

Some Montgomery political observers say that Matthews will benefit from the presence of two women at the top of the 2016 Democratic primary ballot: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Rep. Donna Edwards, who is running for the U.S. Senate nomination against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the 8th District incumbent.

“Hillary is going to get a lot of women out to vote in the primary, and that will accrue to Donna and Kathleen’s benefit,” said Montgomery’s former county executive, Doug Duncan.

But that scenario depends in part on whether Clinton is in a heated race for the presidential nomination by the time the April 26 primary rolls around.

There are few substantive differences among the contenders on issues that resonate with older women. More important will be the candidates’ ability to convince female voters that they can be the most effective advocates for their positions.

Matthews, 62, a former Marriott executive and news anchor for WJLA (Channel 7), will use her robust campaign account to reach women and try to show them that her story — one of juggling career and kids — is their story.

In campaign ads, she calls Democrats the party that “stands up for working women.” She touts her support for requiring employers to pay for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, even if they have religious objections.

Raskin, 52, mixes policy with personal stories of the women in his life, including his wife, Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin.

At the “Women for Jamie” kickoff event in late September, he paid tribute to his late mother, the feminist writer Barbara Raskin, whose best-selling novel, “Hot Flashes,” chronicled three middle-aged women taking stock of their lives after a friend’s death.

Raskin will position himself as a women’s advocate with a legislative track record that includes major roles in the passage of marriage-equality legislation and the state’s version of the Ledbetter Act.

Sol Gutierrez, 73, is the only Hispanic in the race and the only woman besides Matthews. She said she will frame her appeal around immigration, with a focus on the estimated 28,000 Latino residents in District 8, which stretches into parts of Frederick and Carroll counties to the Pennsylvania border.

“Trump has woken us up,” she said.

Sol Gutierrez said she will also be trying to reach women at the senior end of the group, some of the most reliable voters.

“There’s such a huge emphasis on youth and the millennials and the young culture,” Sol Gutierrez said. “It’s wonderful to say this is our future, but it does not focus on what the needs of our seniors are.”