Women candidates Debra Haaland (left), Kimberlin Brown Pelzer (center) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (right) prevailed in their June 5 primaries. (Image Credits: Campaign Facebook pages)
Women candidates Debra Haaland (left), Kimberlin Brown Pelzer (center) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (right) prevailed in their June 5 primaries. (Image Credits: Campaign Facebook pages)

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Running Women project following 15 compelling women candidates in 2018.

This Super Tuesday was super, indeed, for activated American women, now running for office in huge numbers.

In eight states, 122 women were on ballots for congressional and statewide executive offices — more women than on any other Primary Day this year. When the dust settled, 41 female congressional candidates were advancing to the general election on Nov. 6 (29 Democrats and 12 Republicans), while 51 had lost. In statewide executive races, 16 women won their primaries, and 9 lost. (These numbers are not complete, with some California races still too close to call.)

This does not mean that women are close to political parity yet — 122 major party candidates is still only 24.3 percent of the total field, according to Gender Watch 2018, a collaboration between the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University and the Barbara Lee Foundation.

But if women win in large numbers this year, they could still help close the gap in female representation significantly.

And the news was mostly good for the candidates in the The Story Exchange’s Running Women project. Three out of five won their primaries and will advance to the general election.

New Mexico

Women held — and extended — their gains in New Mexican politics on Tuesday night, in large part due to two women we’re watching.

Democratic Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, one of four women of color running for governor in the 2018 election cycle, decisively won her primary. And Debra Haaland, another woman of color, is likely to replace Lujan Grisham in Congress.

Lujan Grisham decisively won her primary and is widely expected to win in November. She would become the first Democratic woman of color and first Democratic Latina elected governor in the country. She would replace a term-limited Republican Latina woman, Governor Susana Martinez.

The 12th generation New Mexican received 66 percent of the vote on Tuesday, defeating two men — runner-up Jeff Apodaca, who received 22 percent, and Sen. Joseph Cervantes, who won 12 percent. Lujan Grisham will face Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the general election.

Meanwhile, Haaland won the Democratic primary for New Mexico’s solidly Democratic 1st Congressional District with 41 percent of the vote in a five-person race, besting her top competitors, U.S. attorney Damon Martinez and social justice activist Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. The win takes Haaland a big step closer to becoming the first Native American woman to win a seat in Congress. She will now face Republican nominee Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran uncontested in her primary, in November.

“Our win is a victory for working people, a victory for women and a victory for everyone who has been sidelined by the billionaire class,” Haaland said in a statement. “The blue wave is coming.”

Four in six of the state’s major-party nominees for House seats are women this year — two Democrats and two Republicans. All four women are running in two races, which all but guarantees that two women will win. That means two of New Mexico’s three seats in the House will be held by women, and New Mexico’s five-person congressional delegation will be 40 percent female.


In California, which has an unusual “jungle” primary system that sends the top two vote-getters to the general election, regardless of party, Senator Dianne Feinstein took the top spot in her re-election bid. She is broadly expected to win a sixth term.

Meanwhile, 52 women ran for seats in the House — 17 as incumbents, six for open seats and 34 as challengers. With some races too close to call as of publication, 31 women were on their way to the general election and at least five women were in limbo.

Among the women advancing to the general is Republican Kimberlin Brown Pelzer, a soap opera star and entrepreneur, who came in second in the race to represent the 36th District. But she has a tough path to Washington. The district leans Democrat, and she faces Democratic incumbent Rep. Raul Raiz, who won 55 percent of the vote to Brown Pelzer’s 23 percent. Nonetheless, Brown Pelzer did manage to defeat the other four candidates, all Republican men, who each received 8 percent or less of the primary vote.

Meanwhile in the 4th District, Democrat Regina Bateson’s hard fought campaign to oust a Republican incumbent came to an end. She took third place with 13 percent of the vote, losing a spot in the general election to another woman, Democrat Jessica Morse, who won 20 percent.

Republican incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock, who received 52.1 percent of the vote, will be difficult to beat in November. However, the district has recently shifted from safely Republican to likely Republican, according to many national election watchers, due in part to the heated race between Bateson and Morse.

Two main factors contributed to Morse’s success in the primary on Tuesday, according to analysts. In a huge victory, the Democratic Party endorsed Morse, as did many prominent Democrats, such as Congresswoman Julia Brownley and former state Sen. Fran Pavley. Morse also raised more money than Bateson — and more than McClintock, for that matter — allowing her to spend heavily on television ads.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs lost her bid to become the Republican nominee to represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, ending the night in second place with about 30 percent of the vote to Dusty Johnson’s 48 percent.

In a statement, Krebs thanked supporters for their work and belief in her “conservative message.” “Tonight’s results are not what we hoped for but it does not change who we are or what we want to accomplish for South Dakota,” she said.

Though Krebs did not prevail, the Republican woman whose shoes she sought to fill, Rep. Kristi Noem, decisively won her primary for governor against Marty Jackley. Noem, who would become the first woman to lead South Dakota, faces Democrat Billie Sutton in November. She is expected to win in this state that heavily favors Republicans.

However, Krebs’ loss means that, for the first time since 2004, South Dakota will have no women in its congressional delegation of one House member and two senators.

With reporting by Candice Helfand-Rogers and Carly LeMoine.