Women Are Running For Office In Record Numbers Because Of President Trump Donald Trump is fueling many women's desire to run for office in 2018 — in the words of one analyst, he's "the gift that keeps on giving" to the resistance.
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More Than Twice As Many Women Are Running For Congress In 2018 Compared With 2016

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More Than Twice As Many Women Are Running For Congress In 2018 Compared With 2016

More Than Twice As Many Women Are Running For Congress In 2018 Compared With 2016

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump's inauguration just over one year ago prompted millions of women to protest. A big question back then was whether that enthusiasm would last. A year later, we have one part of the answer in the unprecedented number of women running for office in 2018. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben traveled to one district where multiple women are seeking a seat in Congress.

HELEN ALLI: Look up me. Y'all follow me on Facebook. These nails are great. Did they do that here?

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: It's Saturday afternoon at Style By Zahra, a salon and in Henrico, Va., and congressional candidate Helen Alli is greeting potential voters. Alli is one of three women Democrats, along with one man, vying to run against Republican Dave Brat, who holds the seat in Virginia 7th District. A year ago, Brat made headlines with these remarks at a town hall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID BRAT: The women are in my grill.

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZLEBEN: That comment upset plenty of Democrats. But in Alli's view, Brat is exactly right.

ALLI: Women are in his grill. We need to be in his grill.

KURTZLEBEN: Brat told NPR that he was simply using language that he had heard voters use against him. Regardless, Abigail Spanberger says it has resonated with women in this Virginia district. She's another candidate running for the Democratic nomination.

ABIGAIL SPANBERGER: You know, it was a bit of a rallying call for many people and a funny comment. But I think it is representative of the fact that there are a lot of people, and many of them women, who started in 2017 really being vocal about what was important to them.

KURTZLEBEN: The kind of enthusiasm that helped push these women into the race isn't unique. In fact, it's a pattern that's playing out nationwide. For example, more than 400 are running for the House, over a hundred more than in the record year of 2012.

STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK: We've never seen anything like this - ever seen anything like this.

KURTZLEBEN: Stephanie Schriock is the president of EMILY'S List, which recruits and trains Democratic women candidates. At this point in the 2016 cycle, 920 women had reached out to EMILY'S List, and it makes this year's total all the more eye-popping.

SCHRIOCK: To have over 30,000 women raise their hand - it's unprecedented.

KURTZLEBEN: And whether it's House, Senate or governors' races, that energy is largely one-sided, according to Deborah Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

DEBORAH WALSH: I think it's really being driven on the Democratic side. I think the energy, and the excitement and the determination not just to run, but also in terms of, who's going to show up to vote? - right now, that's on the side of the Democrats.

KURTZLEBEN: A mix of sadness at Hillary Clinton's 2016 defeat and shock at Donald Trump's win inspired that surge, according to Schriock.

SCHRIOCK: It was a feeling for so many women, including me, that sort of said, wait a second, what do I not understand that's going on in my country?

KURTZLEBEN: But not all of these new female candidates are on the Democratic side, where a lot of energy has been on display in protests focusing on President Trump.

MISSY SHOREY: For so many of those marches, conservatives are just not included.

KURTZLEBEN: Missy Shorey is president of Maggie's List, a group that promotes GOP women candidates.

SHOREY: We're not invited. In fact, we're disinvited sometimes. That's fine if that's the way that the left wants to be treated, but ignore us at your own peril.

KURTZLEBEN: Despite the Democratic wave, Shorey thinks some voters will perceive the newly galvanized Democratic women as too angry. On top of that, she thinks high-profile sexual misconduct allegations help Republican women, too. She talks about a conversation she had recently with one candidate.

SHOREY: She said, I have more men coming up to me, saying, I'm going to vote for you because I am sick of the way these men have been behaving.

KURTZLEBEN: But a major factor pushing unheard of numbers of Democratic women to run for office is how President Trump has responded to allegations of assault, including against himself. For EMILY'S List's Schriock, that wave in response to Trump's election is cold comfort.

SCHRIOCK: It is not worth - it was not worth it. I would've taken our 920 who wanted to run to have a different president. I would've taken that.

KURTZLEBEN: It's still early. Candidates like Alli and Spanberger have primaries to get through, and it's still anybody's guess which party will control Congress after the election. But the unprecedented crowd of women candidates makes it seem pretty likely more women will be there. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News.

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