Last night’s primaries in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia garnered more attention for who lost rather than who won. In Ohio, Dennis Kucinich, the former Congressman and perennial Presidential candidate lost the nomination for governor this fall. Although his old presidential platform resembles the agenda of politicians like Elizabeth Warren, the Dennis Kucinich of ten years ago would hardly recognize the one who now appears on Fox News to support Trump and Assad while dismissing the Russia investigation. Former state treasurer Richard Cordray defeated him by more than forty points.
Meanwhile, right-wing extremist Don Blankenship came in third for the GOP Senate nomination in West Virginia. Blankenship, a coal baron who served prison time for the deaths of 29 miners, became notorious with his racially tinged attack ads targeting the ethnicity of Mitch McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Many feared Blankenship would be Roy Moore 2.0, and his loss allows them to breathe a sigh of relief as state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will challenge incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin this fall.
Between these two candidates (but mostly the latter) taking up a lot of oxygen, you might assume nothing interesting happened last night in these four heavily white states that voted for Trump. However, something very significant happened last night that could lead to an exciting and potentially transformative election cycle this fall: seventeen non-incumbent women won Democratic primaries for their House races.
Many of these women are not politicians by trade. Several of them come from business and community organizing, like Ohio’s Vanessa Enoch, a black community organizer who holds both an MBA and a Ph.D. and handily defeated three male opponents. Some are veterans, like Indiana’s Tobi Beck, a former military officer and foster mom of three. Others have experience working in politics, like West Virginia’s Talley Sergent, who interned for former Senator Jay Rockefeller. Most astonishingly, only three of these women have previous experience running for or holding office: North Carolina’s Linda Coleman and DD Adams, who served respectively in the State House and the Winston-Salem City Council, and Ohio’s Janet Garrett, who lost to Republican Congressman Jim Jordan in 2016. All cite their frustration with the Trump Administration and their commitment to public service as reasons for running,
A total of 390 women in all will have run for the House of Representatives by the end of this year, to say nothing of the local level. In Nebraska, which hasn’t gone blue since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide, 25% of the candidates for various state and federal offices are women, up from 10% in 2014. And in Ohio last night, Rachel Crooks, who has accused President Trump of sexual assault for forcibly kissing her in 2005, won her primary for the state legislature.
These women face uphill battles, given that they are running in mostly red areas that may not be amenable to any Democrat, regardless of their gender. But even if they don’t win, they are still blazing the trail for other women, young and old, particularly in Ohio, where a bipartisan initiative to reform the gerrymanded map passed by a margin of fifty points. If the damage from that process is undone, we may see even more women win greater Democratic victories in subsequent elections.
For more information on these candidates, click on the hyperlinks to their campaign pages below:
1. Jill Schiller (District 2)
2. Janet Garrett (District 4)
3. Shawna Roberts (District 6)
4. Vanessa Enoch (District 8)
5. Theresa Gasper (District 10)
6. Betsy Rader (District 14)
7. Susan Moran Palmer (District 16)
1. Kendra Fershee (District 1)
2. Talley Sergent (District 2)
1. Courtney Tritch (District 3)
2. Tobi Beck (District 4)
3. Dee Thornton (District 5)
4. Jeannine Lee Lake (District 6)
5. Liz Watson (District 9)
1. Linda Coleman (District 2)
2. DD Adams (District 5)
3. Kathy Manning (District 13)