Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Wave of Washington women elected in 2017

Jenny Durkan at her election night party on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2017
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Jenny Durkan at her election night party on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2017

If it seems more women jumped into politics this year, experts say that's true. Washington state will now have female mayors up and down Interstate 5, including in Seattle, Everett, Lynnwood, Kent and Vancouver.

Seattle, with mayor-elect Jenny Durkan, represents one of many cities where women are taking on roles held by men for decades. Washington state’s legislature will also have a new woman in office, with the election of Manka Dhingra to the 45th district, a seat previously held by the late Andy Hill.

The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers says there’s been a big uptick in women running for office since President Donald Trump's election.

Associate director Jean Sinzdak said this trend is very much about what’s happening at the federal level.

Sinzdak: "It was interesting because the conventional wisdom was, if there's a woman president does that mean there will be a galvanizing moment for women saying, 'Hey a woman can be president, I should run too?' But the opposite results seems to have galvanized women even more."

And she said this year it's not just about the politics.

Sinzdak: "With all kinds of things coming up about sexual harassment, there's this feeling that women are sick and tired of it and they want to make their voice heard."

Sinzdak said women are still underrepresented in politics, but that this election is a bellwether for years to come.

Durkan will also be the city's first openly lesbian mayor. Urvashi Vaid of the Lesbian Political Action Committee said that follows another nationwide trend: the election of many LGBTQ candidates.

Vaid said she witnessed transphobic and homophobic political attacks in races outside of Washington state, but candidates still prevailed.

Vaid: "We have an electorate that is more and more familiar with LGBT people, that sees us as part of their families, and isn't susceptible to this kind of nonsense."

Locally, Zachary DeWolf has been elected as the Seattle School Board's first openly gay member, and the results of the King County sheriff's race are favoring Mitzi Johankneckt, an out lesbian.

As for women in politics, Seattle and Spokane’s city councils are both majority women (and Seattle’s is majority people of color). Other cities that are electing (or re-electing) female mayors include Tacoma, Auburn, Issaquah, Black Diamond and Kent.