Michigan women score big and set for key leadership in Legislative Assembly

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, 33 Democratic candidates and 14 Republicans were on course to win their state House races, and 12 Democratic women and four Republicans were leading the state Senate races.


Democrats wrested control of the state Legislature from Republicans on Tuesday for the first time in years, and women are expected to make up the majority of both Democratic legislative caucuses.

If current trends continue in other state legislatures, the increase puts Michigan ahead of the pack in terms of women’s representation in state government. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, the only state to date to achieve gender parity or a majority of women in the state legislature is Nevada.

Of Michigan’s 13-member congressional delegation, five incumbent women were re-elected to their seats, and Grand Rapids Democrat Hillary Scholten won election in Michigan’s 3rd congressional district.

State Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, is in the running for the position of caucus leader next year. She said the change was refreshing.

“It’s been hundreds of years that everything has been lopsided the other way around, so it’s really gratifying to see women taking their place in the halls of power,” Brinks said.

“Certainly having more women at the table has been a trend in recent years in Michigan, and I think you’re seeing confirmation from voters that they like what they’re seeing.”

Voters re-elected Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, General Counsel Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, all Democrats. All were first elected in 2018, a turbulent year for Democratic women following frustration over the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

This year, Michigan was one of 10 states to elect a female governor this year, part of a national trend of more women seeking statewide positions. Six states, including Michigan, have seen two women vying for the governorship.

“It’s definitely a sign that there’s been a sea change in terms of voters’ perception of women in leadership positions,” said Amanda Hunter, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, a nonpartisan organization. who studies women in American politics.

“Seeing a number of constitutional positions across the state filled by strong women helped open voters’ minds to the possibility that women would be well suited for executive office and paved the way for re-election. women.”

Abortion is a key issue

Several Democratic lawmakers have said abortion is a key issue that has boosted women’s participation and candidacy.

“When you start playing around with people’s basic rights, like reproductive freedom, it really caught people’s attention,” Brinks said.

Brinks said the legislature must repeal a 1931 abortion ban that was to come into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade this summer “to keep it consistent with what people have said they want to see in our Constitution.”

Rep. Julie Brixie, D-Okemos, focused on this year as she recruited female candidates to run for public office. Brixie is the chair of recruiting and training for the House Democrats campaign.

“When Roe fell and when we put reproductive rights on the ballot … I knew it was going to be really important to the results and women were going to do really well,” she said.

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