The "year of the woman" is officially here. Tuesday night's primaries ushered in a record number of women nominees to the midterm elections, meaning that both Congress and governorships across the nation could be a lot more female next year. That, in turn, has implications for how these chambers of government could shift politically and culturally in the near future.
The historic nature of the evening was ensured before it began. According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), the previous record for women nominated for seats in the House of Representatives was 167. Topping that was a given on the Tuesday, Aug. 7, primary date, with 162 women already nominated, one race that featured only women, and five women running unopposed. But far more female candidates than that ended up winning — at least 20, according to CAWP — bringing the total number of female House nominees to at least 182. Three races that could result in additional women nominees were too close to call as of Wednesday morning.
It was also historic on the gubernatorial level. According to CAWP, the prior record for female nominees for governor has topped out at 10 (first achieved in 1994). As of Tuesday night, 11 women have been nominated this year.
One particularly consequential nominee was Rashida Tlaib, who will likely be the United States' first Muslim congresswoman after winning her primary in Michigan. Tlaib, the child of Palestinian immigrants, made history in 2008 when she became the first Muslim woman to join Michigan's state legislature. Without a Republican challenger, she is now poised to sail through the November elections and into the U.S. Congress.
It was actually an even bigger night for female candidates in Michigan. The state's Democratic Party now has entirely women running on its ballot statewide, according to HuffPost, including its candidates for attorney general and secretary of state. Gretchen Whitmer won a high-profile race against Abdul El-Sayed for its gubernatorial nomination. Victories also came for women in the Kansas and Missouri primaries.
Increasing the number of women in government doesn't just make U.S. leadership more representative of its constituents. It also means a more productive government, because female politicians tend to pass more laws, according to Vox. And of course, it means that the discussion around issues that primarily affect women — like funding for Planned Parenthood — could shift and get more attention.
"Women in Congress are just more likely to prioritize issues that have a direct connection to women — violence against women, family leave policy, those kind of things," Michele Swers, a political science professor at Georgetown, told Vox.
In the end, it's partially a numbers game, but also much more. "The story of this election is not just the number of women candidates running," said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, a group that tries to elect more pro-choice Democratic women, to HuffPost, "it's the strength of those women, their stories and the experiences they will bring into office."