9 Women In Politics Explain How Trump Inspired Them To Run For Office
Following Trump's election as president, the country witnessed a significant uptick in the number of women running for office. EMILY's List, an organization which works to elect pro-choice, Democratic women, noted earlier in November that Trump's win — and Hillary Clinton's loss — indeed marked a transformational moment in American history. Since then, women in politics have discussed why Trump inspired them to run. Though their campaigns are certainly not Trump-centric, his election was a catalyst for ensuring women's voices are represented in elected offices around the country.
EMILY's List told Vox that, in 2017, it heard from over 20,000 women who were interested in running for office. This marks a massive jump from the 900 women that expressed interest in running during the 2015-’16 election cycle. Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY's List, described the momentum as unprecedented, telling Vox, “We’ve never seen anything like this."
This momentum is already having significant impacts. On Nov. 7, women won elections in record numbers all over the country, including in Virginia, where women won an unprecedented 28 seats in the state legislature. Nine of these victories were from Democratic women who unseated Republican incumbents.
With the substantial increase in women running for office, it is important to hear women candidates' own words about why they decided to run, including their reflections on how Trump (ironically) inspired them to seek political office. The list below explains why just some of these women candidates were particularly inspired to serve following the 2016 presidential election.
Jennifer Carroll Foy
Foy ran as a Democrat to represent District 2 as a delegate in Virginia's State Legislature and won the seat in the Nov. 7 elections. She explains to Bustle that she decided to run for office because, after Trump's election, she wanted to make sure that "women like her" represent the new status quo when it comes to elected officials.
"After the November 2016 election, I felt what many Americans felt. I was angry, frustrated, and nervous. I was also perplexed on how a man who made admissions of sexual abuse, mocked the disabled, and appealed to people's bigotry, hatred, and fear was able to beat one of the most experienced individuals to ever run for the highest office in the world. I knew there had to be a response. There needed to be a counterbalance to Trump ... "
"As a public defender and foster parent, I have dedicated my life to public service. Also, as one of the first women to graduate from Virginia Military Institute, I know how to lead, fight, and advocate for change and to be voice for the voiceless. I want to help change the face [of] politics because I know that we must have a seat at the table if our interests are going to be advanced and protected ... There is too much at stake to continue to sit on the sidelines. Elections changes policy that affects everyone's quality of life. I will no longer ask for permission to change the status quo, I will fight for policy change and the advancement of Democratic values, and I will not stop until women like me are the status quo."
Schrier is running for Congress in Washington’s 8th Congressional District race with the hopes of succeeding retiring Republican Representative Dave Reichert. She tells Bustle that she decided to "step up" when Trump won.
"The 2016 election was a huge wake up call for me. Suddenly I realized that we really need all hands on deck - including my own - when our country's future is at stake. When my son asks me someday what I did when Trump won, I want to be able to say that I stepped up. The problem in Congress is that there are too few representatives like me and too many career politicians. People are tired of petty politics and partisan bickering. As a doctor and a patient with a pre-existing condition, I'll listen, bring fresh ideas, and do what's right for the people in my district and in this country."
Ayala won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates on Nov. 7. On top of defeating a long-term incumbent legislator, she also became one of the two first Latina women to serve in Virginia's House of Delegates. Ayala tells Bustle that she felt it was important to run to stop harmful policies from affecting her community.
"I wanted to prevent national, Trump-like policies from coming into my own backyard and harming my friends and neighbors. I saw Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly voting to defund Planned Parenthood and refusing to expand affordable access to health care for those who need it. As an active community member, I ran because I thought I would be a better advocate for women and families in my state."
Murillo won a seat on Aurora, Colorado's City Council — a historically conservative body — and defeated incumbent Sally Mounier. She discussed the role the 2016 election played in her decision to run for office with Colorado's Westword newspaper.
The presidential election happened, and I had this awful feeling, because here was somebody who did not represent my values and who was attacking different communities, like the Mexican community in particular. I come from an immigrant family from Mexico. I was hurt and defeated, and I sat on those feelings for about a week and could not come to terms with the reality I was experiencing. On election night, I knew I was going to have to do something, and I wasn’t quite sure what that was. But talking to different people about Aurora, about what had happened, I got a call from [Emerge executive director] Jenny Willford. She asked me, Would you consider running? I was so shocked that somebody thought I could do the job! Somebody had faith that I could be a great representative. That further solidified my decision to run.
Houlahan is running as a Democrat to represent Pennsylvania's 6th Congressional District. She reflected on the impetus behind her decision to run back in September in Rolling Stone magazine.
I never expected to be running for office in any form ... I felt like I was doing my part in terms of serving my country, and I always felt as though my elected officials were doing their part as well. But I no longer felt that was the case after this election ... I had a real sense of distress that we were in trouble as a nation and that it was the right thing to do to rush into what I perceive as a threat to our country, instead of running away from it.
Scott ran in the Nov. 7 elections for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education's District 3 representative in North Carolina. Though she was defeated in the race by Ruby Jones, she doesn't plan on calling it quits anytime soon. Scott explains to Bustle how Trump's election made her believe that there are no limits to what she can achieve.
"Trump inspired me to run for office because I honestly remember thinking 'wow, if this man can run for office, piss off the ENTIRE world, win the presidency and still piss off the world, then there are no limits on what I can do.'"
Tucker ran to represent District 81 as a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates and ultimately lost to Republican Barry Knight on Nov. 7. Still, she's not backing down. She tells Bustle that Trump's election represented a threat to her family and community — and she decided to do something about it.
"A lioness will fiercely protect her cubs. Animals throughout the animal kingdom know instinctively not to threaten female animals' children in her presence. The election of Donald Trump literally represented a very real threat to the community in which I would raise my child. I could not stand by and simply watch that happen from the sidelines, so I decided to run."
Durkan recently became the newest Mayor of Seattle, Washington, defeating Cary Moon during the Nov. 7 elections. She tells Bustle that, after Trump was elected, her first inclination was to resist.
"Waking up last November was disorienting. We went from the President of hope to the polar opposite. Too many Americans suddenly had to worry if they have a home in our country. Trump's vision for America is built on fear and has only become more divisive and unwelcoming ... "
"Like so many, last November my first inclination was to resist. And in the months that followed the president's election, I marched with millions across the country, spoke out against his divisive actions, and went to SeaTac to help get the first injunction to stop people from being illegally deported from Trump's unconstitutional Muslim ban ... We had to organize, act, and reclaim our country. D.C. might be lost for now, but we can all act where we live. I couldn't stay quiet in Seattle — our city is the antithesis of what Trump stands for."
"Trump's vision for America is not my vision for America. It is not Seattle’s vision for America. Whether its climate change, criminal justice reform, civil rights, or LGBTQ rights, we've led the way, and more than anything I know we can continue leading the way to show the country our progressive values."
Mary Jo Sheeley
Sheeley ran as a Democratic candidate to represent District 68 in the Virginia House of Delegates. She was defeated by Dawn Adams in the Democratic primary, but ultimately won the seat against incumbent Republican Manoli Loupassi. While she was a candidate, Sheeley spoke with the Richmond Times Dispatch about her political ambitions.
It’s so clear what we need to do ... We need to look at what is going on locally. And we need to change the balance of power in the General Assembly.
It is certainly enlightening to hear women's own words about why they decided to stand up following the election. Many Americans will be closely watching these candidates' careers unfold, either as newly-minted elected officials or as civilians continuing to make a difference in their communities.