It remains to be seen if 2018 will be the year of the woman in electoral politics, but the primary election Tuesday certainly was a good day for female candidates.
A record-breaking 84 Iowa women advanced from primary election races and will make up 35 percent of the general election field Nov. 6, according to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University in Ames.
The previous record was 27 percent two years ago.
Among the woman advancing to the general election are Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, and two Democratic U.S. House challengers — state Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Dubuque in the 1st Congressional District and Cindy Axne, a West Des Moines business owner, in the 3rd Congressional District.
Also advancing: state Auditor Mary Mosiman, a Republican, and Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state.
Dianne Bystrom of the Catt Center said she knew that at least 65 of the 99 women on the ballot would advance to the general election because they were unopposed or were running against a woman. The number could have been as high as 96.
“We thought that number would be somewhere in the middle. That fact that is it over 80 is pretty remarkable,” she said this week.
In Iowa legislative races, 79 of 89 women won, which makes Bystrom confident that the number of women in the Legislature will exceed the current 35, which equals the all-time high set in 2009.
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It’s not just the number of women on the ballot, Bystrom said, but that they increased their winning percentage.
Overall, the 99 women won 85 percent of their races while men won 79 percent of the time.
In legislative primaries, 57 Democratic women and 21 GOP women who won their primaries were unopposed. Of those with opponents, eight of 17 Democrats and six of nine Republicans won, according to the Catt Center.
Among men with opponents, seven of 22 Democrats and 12 of 31 Republicans were victorious.
Overall, the all-time high of 99 women on the Iowa primary ballot compared to 176 men. Women were 32 percent of the candidates, up from 26 percent just two years ago, Bystrom said.
Although she’s confident women’s numbers in the Iowa Legislature will increase, Bystrom said it may not be enough to improve the state’s ranking for female representation.
With 35 women in the Legislature in 2009, Iowa ranked 27th in the nation for female representation.
This year, with 35 women lawmakers, Iowa ranks 31st.
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