More women in Hawaii are running for office in 2018 than in the last election cycle two years ago, following a nationwide trend.

In Hawaii, 125 women are candidates for local, state and federal offices this year, compared to 93 candidates on the 2016 primary ballot, according to the state Office of Elections.

Women make up about 38 percent of the 324 candidates this year, compared to 32 percent of the 283 candidates during the 2016 election cycle.

Some were likely prompted to run after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss in the 2016 presidential election, according to Ngoc Phan, assistant professor of political science at Hawaii Pacific University.

Congressional Candidate Sherry Campagna speaks at the 2018 Democratic Party Convention at the Hilton Waikaloa Resort in Kona, Hawaii.
Sherry Campagna is challenging Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Count Sherry Campagna as one of them.

“When I decided to run for this seat it was obvious that once President Trump was elected (women’s rights) was going to be a problem,” said first-time candidate Campagna, one of two women challenging another woman, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District.

While just over half of the country’s population is female, women make up about a fifth of Congress and 29 percent of the Hawaii Legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The state has a slightly higher proportion of female state legislators than the national average of 25 percent.

Hawaii was also recently ranked among the top five states for women running for U.S. Senate with 30 percentage of candidates being female since 1994, according to an analysis from CNN.

California, Washington, Maine and Maryland were the four other states with the highest percentages of female candidates. The bottom five were Mississippi, Tennessee, South Dakota, Vermont and Ohio.

A Role Model, Even Though She Lost

The 2016 presidential election may have inspired more women to run for office in a couple of ways, Phan said. As Campagna noted, women’s rights were almost immediately seen as imperiled by Trump’s rise to power. But even before that, it was the first time a female was the presidential nominee of a major American political party.

“Hillary Clinton’s loss still provided a role model for many women that they can run for office,” Phan said. “The literature finds role models matter and that when women run for office they often win.”

As of June, a record 468 women have filed to run for seats in the U.S. House this year, a more than 187  percent increase from 2016, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, has heard from more than 36,000 women interested in running for office since 2016. During the prior election cycle, that number was just over 900.

Hawaii marchers 2017 Womens March Washington DC. 21 jan 2017
Most of the rallies during the 2017 Women’s March were aimed at President Donald Trump. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I think women are just fed up and they’re fighting back,” said Maeve Coyle, EMILY’s List spokeswoman. “I think you’re seeing more and more women come forward and say, ‘I see this issue going on in the administration and I want to change it.'”

But women candidates are still outnumbered nationally.

Take U.S. House of Representatives races, where men constitute 78 percent of the major party candidates this year. In the highly competitive race for an open seat in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District, there are just three women in the 14-candidate field.

Political Ambition Gap

Part of the reason women are still not running for public office as frequently as men is because there is a gender gap in political ambition — women are less likely to think they are qualified, Phan said.

Young women receive less encouragement than young men to run for office, she said.

They are less likely to be socialized by their parents to think about politics as a potential career, and are exposed to less political information and discussion, according to a report by the School of Public Affairs at American University.

“If women are recruited, encouraged to pursue political ambition and see more female role models, these three aspects would correlate with more women running for office,” Phan said.

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