The results are in: Pennsylvania is one step closer to sending a woman to Washington — something that hasn't happened since 2015. The Keystone state is the largest of 11 states that currently have zero (zero!) women representing them in Congress. But the results of Tuesday night's primary elections have essentially assured that will change this year: In one district, both major party nominees are women. As it stands now, at least seven women in total, six Democrats and one Republican, will be on the ballot in Pennsylvania in November. In at least two contests featuring women candidates, the results are still too close to call.
Primaries were also held on Tuesday in Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. In a year when record numbers of women are running for office, a majority of them Democrats, the results of yesterday's primaries show that women can not only run, they can win. According to a tally by the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers, almost half (44.8%) of the women candidates for U.S. House running in Tuesday's primaries nationwide won their bids.
Pennsylvania is also battleground state that will be key if Democrats are to reach their goal of taking back the House in November. Earlier this year the state's gerrymandered congressional district map was redrawn. This, plus a series of resignations by Republicans, has bolstered Democrats' chances. In fact, several of the Democratic women who won primaries yesterday are now favored to win in several of the districts where they won primaries last night.
In Pennsylvania's 5th House district (PA-05), two women will face off in November, Democrat Mary Gay Scanlon and Republican Pearl Kim. Scanlon, a public interest lawyer who previously served on her local school board, pulled in 28% of the vote in a crowded field of 10 Democrats (half of them women) vying for the chance to move forward. Kim is a special victims prosecutor, daughter of Korean immigrants, and the only Republican female congressional candidate running in the state. She ran in her primary uncontested.
Scanlon is favored to bring home the win for Democrats in November, but it is particularly symbolic that two women will face-off in this district, since the man who previously represented parts of it, Republican Pat Meehan, resigned in April after it was revealed he used $39,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim.
Democratic primary winners Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) are also favored to win in November.
"It's quite an experience to come from underdog to now 'favored to win'," Dean, who currently serves as a state house representative, tells Refinery29. "I think part of what resonated though is that it makes no sense that there are no women congresspeople representing in Washington. I've never said to anyone vote for me because I'm a woman. But what we’re seeing, I think, is a hunger for people who genuinely want to serve, who genuinely want to make a difference. I hope people got our message that inclusivity and diversity is important, and that women's voices must be heard."
Wild, who was the first female solicitor in Allentown, Pa., echoed the sentiment. "I think that honestly, men and women are ready to see more women in government. That was my experience on the trail: Many people of both genders told me they felt it was critical," she says. "They felt that things could be done differently, that women have different kinds of problem-solving skills that would be useful. And I concur with all of that."
Democratic women in Pennsylvania are also taking their chances in districts that are less friendly. Jess King, a progressive Mennonite who was endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, won her primary in the state's 11th congressional district. But in the general she will compete in an area Trump won handily in 2016. Likewise, Bibiana Boerio won her nomination handily in the 14th district, which under the new map is an area Trump carried by 29 points. Susan Boser took home 75% of the vote in her primary, but will face a tough road to victory against the Republican incumbent in her district.