Wendy Davis may be a state legislator, but she’s long garnered nationwide fame for her staunch support of women’s reproductive rights. So it’s no surprise, then, that her campaign for Governor of Texas has received similar scrutiny. She’s served in the Texas State Senate since 2008, and throughout her career, has been a vocal advocate for abortion rights. She’s also been a supporter of equal pay through her work on the Texas Equal Pay Act, which was ultimately vetoed by current Texan Governor Rick Perry. With Wendy Davis in the top spot, it’s certain that women would be a priority in Texas—a state where women’s rights (particularly when it comes to health care) notoriously lag.
Alison Lundergan Grimes has already captured the title of youngest woman currently serving as Secretary of State. Grimes, the Democratic nominee for the up-for-grabs Senate seat in the bluegrass state, has some hefty competition: Mitch McConnell, a Republican and the current senate minority leader. Despite McConnell’s influential position, his reelection isn’t a guarantee. A recent poll from Western Kentucky University shows that in fact, McConnell's unpopularity may be the key to her win. The significant number of McConnell opponents shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, especially for women: He’s previously voted against enforcing equal pay and the Violence Against Women act.
Most often, we see political candidates with backgrounds in law or public service. In a more unusual case, Monica Wehby, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Oregon, has a medical history. For 17 years, she’s worked as a pediatric neurosurgeon. If her professional past should tell voters anything, it’s that Wehby is not just brilliant, but can handle a high-pressure position. For those who question the latter, her response is simple: 'Are you kidding?' It’s also worth noting that unlike many GOP candidates, Wehby supports abortion rights as well as gay marriage.
Martha Coakley was the first woman to serve as Attorney General in the state of Massachusetts, but after 8 years, she’s got her sights set on a bigger prize: the Governor’s mansion. Beyond her experience in the Massachusetts government thus far, what sets Coakley (a Democrat) apart is her dedication to the rights of women. She served as president of the Women’s Bar Association to defend women against violence and she launched a Women’s Leadership Council to improve the lives of Masschusetts females. It’s no shock, of course, that’s she’s gained the endorsements of Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood. Women aren’t the only group that Coakley has impacted during her tenure as attorney general. She was also the only state attorney general to challenge the now-struck-down Defense of Marriage Act.
If you're looking for a candidate with an unexpected background, you’ll find it in Maura Healey, a Democrat who is looking to occupy the seat of Attorney General of Massachusetts. She’s a former professional basketball player, and as different as politics and sports may seem, Healey told MSNBC: "I think the drive you learn in sports has really helped me as a candidate." In the interim of her time on the court and her campaign, Healey worked as a civil rights attorney and criminal prosecutor.
Incumbent Cheri Bustos represents Illinois' 17th District. If the Democrat's sounds familiar, there’s a reason: She’s one of the original co-sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act. If this history of supporting the end of the gender wage gap isn’t enough, draw your attention to her self-proclaimed number one priority: the creation of jobs for the citizens of her region.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is a staunch supporter of both same-sex marriage and women’s rights (she’s a sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act.) These stances align with Sinema’s personal life: She’s the first openly bisexual man or woman to be elected to Congress. Besides these issues, she’s a been a longtime supporter of the nation’s veterans, as well as women, families, and seniors.
Mia Love has the potential for a lot of "firsts." She’d be the first African-American female Republican elected to Congress. To boot, in her home state of Utah, she’d be the first black man or woman to be elected to federal office. However, the past isn’t in her favor: this is her second attempt at winning the seat for the state’s 4th District.
It’s not a matter of getting a woman elected to West Virginia’s next senate seat, but which woman. In a a rare race, Democrat Natalie Tennant (featured in Marie Claire's October issue!) is running against Republican Shelley Moore Capito for the role. But the double girl power isn’t the only thing that makes this race captivating: They’re fighting for the title of West Virginia’s first ever female senator.
With women making up just 18 percent of the House of Representatives and 20 percent of the United States Senate, it’s clear there’s strides to be made in terms of female representation in government. Iowa is one of two states left that has yet to elect a female representative to the federal government. Democrat Staci Appel could change that. And she’s just the type of woman you want to see in office. She’s endorsed by Emily's List, and in her previous role as a State Senator in Iowa, she was an avid champion of one of the first equal pay bills that has been passed into law.