Karen Handel is one of numerous Georgia women who won a political office this year.
In the Nov. 7 elections, a wave of women who had never run for office before won races across the country, in many cases ousting male incumbents.
These new candidates had the most impact in Virginia, where they were largely responsible for Democrats nearly wiping out a 32-seat advantage for Republicans in the state legislature.
Here in Georgia, we have seen women from both parties win political offices that previously belonged to men.
Earlier this year, Republican Karen Handel won the 6th Congressional District seat that once belonged to Tom Price. Kay Kirkpatrick won a state Senate seat that Judson Hill vacated. In last week’s runoff elections, Democratic women swept four legislative seats that were up for grabs in the Metro Atlanta area, with women candidates beating male candidates in three of those races.
Attorney Jen Jordan defeated pediatric dentist Jaha Howard in Senate District 6, officially flipping that seat from Republican to Democratic and ending the Republicans’ super-majority in the Senate. Jordan replaces Hunter Hill, who resigned to run for governor.
In DeKalb County’s House District 89, Bee Nguyen beat attorney Sachin Varghese and will replace Stacey Abrams, who stepped down to run for governor. Nguyen will be the first Vietnamese American to serve in the General Assembly.
In Atlanta’s House District 60, Kim Schofield defeated DeAndre Pickett and will replace Keisha Waites in the House. (Waites was one woman who didn’t do so well in last week’s runoffs, losing her Fulton County Commission race to Robb Pitts.)
The only legislative contest involving two women candidates was in Atlanta’s Senate District 39, where Nikema Williams edged out Linda Pritchett. Williams replaces Vincent Fort in the Senate.
In the runoff for mayor of Atlanta, we already knew that the next holder of that office would be a woman who would replace the termed-out Kasim Reed. That woman is Keisha Lance Bottoms, who finished with a narrow lead of 759 votes over Mary Norwood after all the precincts were counted.
For Norwood, it marked the second time she nearly won the mayor’s race but fell just short. In 2009, she was the leader coming out of the general election but lost the runoff to Kasim Reed by just 714 votes.
In the race for city council president, Felicia Moore was yet another winner for women, defeating Alex Wan.
In Athens, Deborah Gonzalez defeated a better-funded male opponent, Houston Gaines, in the House District 117 special election.
The wave of women winners is a trend that has swept the nation since the election of Donald Trump as president. Trump’s presence in the Oval Office seems to have energized more women to run for office than they have in past years.
Another factor that could motivate women to run in 2018 is the “#MeToo” movement that has seen them come forward with complaints of sexual harassment by men in the media, the entertainment world, and in politics.
Sen. Al Franken, along with Reps. John Conyers and Trent Franks, have already resigned from Congress over sexual harassment accusations. Movie producer Harvey Weinstein, TV hosts Bill O’Reilly and Matt Lauer and comedian Louis CK are out for the same reason.
The “#MeToo” movement has even hit the Georgia General Assembly. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker David Ralston disclosed last week that they have appointed a special committee that will review the legislature’s current sexual harassment and workplace conduct policies.
It’s too soon to say whether the committee’s work will result in any legislators being compelled to resign from the General Assembly. If that should happen, however, I suspect we’ll see a number of women step forward to try to replace them.
I see the emergence of women in politics, for whatever reason, as a positive development. For more than two centuries, American politics has largely been the domain of middle-aged white males. It’s time to get a wider variety of viewpoints.