The Dust Is Settled: How Did Women Fare In the Primaries?

Some of the most watched, most competitive primary races were held last week, and many of them involved female candidates.  Now it’s time to see how it all shook out for women.

Thanks to the Alabama primary results, the state will be electing its first Congresswoman in November. Even better, it will be someone who believes in reproductive rights.  From Women in Politics:

After last night’s Democratic primary, Alabama is ready to make history.

Two women, Terri Sewell and Sheila Smoot, secured over 70% of the vote in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, bringing them to a runoff election on July 13.

I’m excited to say that Terri Sewell was the top vote-getter, garnering 37 percent of the vote.

Alabama voters now have the rare chance to choose between two African-American women who support reproductive rights.

This historic race may not get much attention from the national media, but women across the country need to pay attention to the numerous women out there fighting to make a difference.

And that wasn’t the only groundbreaking victory for women.  Women’s Campaign Forum also has a roundup of other new candidates who made it through the challenge.

In California, intelligent and powerful women of color are challenging every boundary and reaching new levels of leadership. Speaker Karen Bass was the first African-American woman to be elected Speaker of a State Assembly, and is an excellent candidate to represent California’s 33rd district in the U.S. Congress. She, in turn, has endorsed Holly Mitchell to continue minority women’s representation in the State Assembly.

In 2003, Kamala Harris became the first African-American and South Asian woman to serve as San Francisco’s Attorney General, and she would be California’s first woman and first minority to be elected as Attorney General. While Harris still faces a tough race in November, these remarkable women make it clear that obstacles such as race and gender imbalance can be challenged, and overcome, by the right candidates.

There are many paths for women to effect change in this country. These women have worked in the private sector, at non-profits, and in various public positions, and all of them have consistently striven to promote progressive ideals and paved the way for more women in leadership positions.

Angie Buhl and Roxanne Conlin are excellent role models for how women can help promote women’s rights—Buhl’s longtime work as a proponent of women’s reproductive health choices will now be reflected in her work in the South Dakota Senate.

Conlin, as Iowa’s Assistant Attorney General, helped women by writing Iowa’s first rape victim protection law, and defended pregnant women’s rights in the state’s Supreme Court. After her victory last night, it is apparent to me that she will continue to shatter stereotypes and defend the values important to Iowans and women across the country.

The mainstream media, of course, was focused on much higher profile races, especially California and Nevada.  And those races were also the focus of Republican women action groups like Susan B. Anthony List.  SBA List, which spoke in May about its full throated (and fully financed) backing of Sue Lowden in Nevado, has quietly moved to endorse Tea Party Candidate Sharon Angle after her surprise victory in the primary, making the case that one conservative candidate is the same as another to the group as long as she’s female and anti-choice.  And they seem to have replaced Lowden with Carly Fiorina as the new face of their movement, despite her support for things like birth control, an anathema to the strictest in the anti-choice movement.  The group appears to be much more concerned with defeating certain Democratic politicians than upholding their own candidate criteria.

But regardless, it was definitely a strong showing for Republican female candidates. Yet what does it mean overall for women?  As Lauren at Women in Politics writes:

Though some of these women don’t share WCF’s views on reproductive health choices, I am encouraged. This sudden deluge of victories has forced the country to stand up and take notice of women’s political power.

That said, I want to ask these candidates one question: If elected, what will you do to advance women’s rights?

Many of you prevailed in spite of the Political Establishment. Now, it is my great hope that you will use your hard-earned collective power to help us break up the Good Ol’ Boys’ Club and change the many existing harmful views against women.

It is my firm belief that we need more women in government—but it’s essential that they use their leadership to protect and empower all women in America.

That means working to turn the tide of the Establishment, which continually looks to restrict women’s freedoms across the board.

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johan l.
paul l8 years ago

Good for you ladies of African-American stock!
Not that that should have anything to do with it, but as I read about Alabama first, I took it for granted that the lady in question is African_American.
I find it strange though, that you call Kamala Harris African-American AND South Asian.
You cannot be both. Is she Asian-American or is there no such term.
I am a great supporter of having more women getting involved in politics though!

Kathy Javens
Kathy Javens8 years ago

if they are qualified to do the job,then why shouldn`t they? gender should play no role what so ever.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna8 years ago

thank you

Lika S.
Lika P8 years ago

Women belong in the house! And senate!

Brian S.
Bryan S8 years ago

I agree with Robin...we do need more women in government. Just look at where our country is was men who drove our economy into the ground. It's clear that the men have failed. Other countries such as Iceland have realized this and started replacing men with women to run their banks. Chile was one of the strongest countries during the recession...who was their President at the time? A woman...Michele Bachelet. This country needs female leadership right now...not the same male leadership that got us here. The more women we have in decision-making positions the better we will be. Nothing is going to change until the Good Ol Boys Club is broken up. Last week I saw a bumper sticker that said "Elect Women for a CHANGE"...that sums it up perfectly in my opinion. Keep up the good work Robin.

Ray S.
Ray Sol8 years ago


Morgan G.
Morgan Getham8 years ago

This should properly be titled "How did women I AGREE WITH fare in the primaries". Short shrift is given to the major victories won by Republican women in very high profile elections.

Susan M.
Susan M.8 years ago

Yes- spelling matters, too... and it does distract from the point you are trying to make

Daniel W.
Daniel W8 years ago

Marilyn L says: "It is way past time that the American people start becoming smarter with their votes (can you believe voting for G. Bush TWICE). There is so much more information available on everyone one now, that it is pretty simple to do your own research on candidates to really know their truths."

This is exactly right. I don't think there's much hope, though. Not only did they stupidly elect Bush twice, then they elected Obama. And before them, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, etc. When was the last time the American people elected a GOOD president? I'm thinking it was Jefferson.

Daniel W.
Daniel W8 years ago

Who cares how women fared in the primaries, unless they're independents?

Anyone who's a Democrat or a Republican is just another corporate-backed, corrupt politician, and will just vote for more corporate welfare and bail-outs while ignoring anything that would actually help people on Main Street.