2018 is shaping up to be a big year for women running for office, and Pennsylvania could be leading the charge for female candidates.
Of the nearly 400 women running for Congress this year, 20 are hoping to win seats in the Keystone State. "Open seats are traditionally good opportunities for women; they're good opportunities really for anyone, you don't have an incumbent and then a newly created seat, just like an open seat, is a great opportunity for women," explained Kimberly Mitchem-Rasmussen, the founder and political director of the Political Institute for Women, an educational nonprofit that offers training courses for women seeking office. Pennsylvania currently has no female representatives in Congress.
But a revamped district map and several retirements have created a very open field in the state, prompting many women to take their first shot at running.
The newly drawn 5th district is set to be one of the most competitive primaries for women in the country.
Seven women are vying for the congressional seat currently held by Republican Pat Meehan, who opted not to seek re-election after it was revealed he used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. All but one of those women candidates are Democrats, so some experts are concerned that they may divide the vote and ultimately hand the nomination to a male candidate. "We have to look at the individual races and look at how many races in the primaries have women running against women.
I do think that some coordination across the field so that we have women running for every district would be a great idea," Mitchem-Rasmussen said. SEE MORE: Pennsylvania's New District Map Could Be The Key For Democrats In 2018 Right now women are competing in 13 of the state's 18 House districts.
Even if they don't make it past the primaries, Mitchem-Rasmussen says those women could still make a difference in Pennsylvania's politics. "I think at the end of the day, if your goal is to serve the people of Pennsylvania, if there is a county commission seat open for you, or a race that you can get into, consider getting into that county commission race.
If there is a state legislative race that you can get into, considering getting into that state legislative race."