RALEIGH — The wave of women signing up to run for political office has hit North Carolina.
State Democrats spent Monday announcing nine new candidates — including six women — in their 2018 effort to break Republicans’ veto-proof majority in the state legislature.
Rep. Darren Jackson, the top Democrat in the state House of Representatives, said on Twitter that he thinks the rise in women candidates has been especially pronounced in the last year.
“It’s something we were seeing way before all the sexual harassment scandals started to break,” he wrote. “After the 2016 election, a lot of women started turning out for events, indivisible groups, house parties. Many for the first time. Been seeing it for a year now.”
The Raleigh city council is now half women for just the second time ever, after the city’s October elections. Also in October, Virginia’s state legislature swung from a strong Republican majority to a split in power after Democrats flipped 15 seats in their favor. Almost all of those 15 Democratic winners were women.
In North Carolina, the elections for state legislative seats aren’t until November 2018, and the deadline for candidates to file (Feb. 28, 2018) is still more than two months away. In the meantime, there might be more women of either party to sign up to run for what has always been a male-dominated state legislature.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 13 of North Carolina’s 50 state senators are women, as are 30 of the 120 state representatives. The state’s population is 51 percent female.
In North Carolina on Monday, Republicans pointed out that many of the GOP incumbents being targeted by the new Democratic challengers are also women.
In addition to the Democratic women who announced runs Monday, Cary Life magazine editor Jennifer Ferrell hopes to run a second time against Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary. First, though, she will be in a primary against fellow Democrat Matt Calabria, a Wake County Commissioner. And Jen Mangrum, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, plans to run against Republican Sen. Phil Berger, the leader of the state Senate.
It’s unclear exactly which maps will be in play next November, when the elections will be held. There are currently three different versions of the legislative district maps.
One version, the current map, has been ruled unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Republicans in the legislature then passed a second version earlier this year, but a panel of federal judges considering the case hired an independent redistricting expert, Stanford University professor Nathaniel Persily, to draw a third version of the maps.
Persily’s version is the one that Democrats relied on to announce where they’re running. Republican leaders have criticized Persily’s work, which would make it easier for Democrats to win in several districts.
Despite the heavy Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature, North Carolina voters tend to split roughly evenly in statewide elections, like for governor or president.
Here are the candidates who announced Monday.
Martha Shafer, a hospital executive, will run against Republican Rep. John Faircloth, a real estate broker from High Point, for House District 62 in northwest Guilford County.
In the northern Forsyth County suburbs of Winston-Salem, Terri LeGrand announced her plans to run against Republican Rep. Debra Conrad for House District 74. LeGrand is a financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University.