Pa. election 2018: 126 women are on the ballot and you might be surprised why they're running

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If Republican Pearl Kim defeats Democrat Mary Scanlon in the 5th congressional district, which covers Delaware County and other slices of the Philadelphia suburbs, she will be the first woman of color elected to Congress in Pennsylvania history.

But that’s not why she’s running.

The daughter of parents who immigrated from South Korea, and a survivor of cancer and campus sexual assault, said she sees the forgotten and hears the voiceless.

“If someone is hurting, I’m helping,” said the 39-year-old special victims prosecutor.

As a prosecutor, she secured the first human trafficking conviction in Pennsylvania.

Kim stepped down from Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office, where she focused on campus safety and sexual assault on college campuses, to run for office.

She’s running on several key issues: bipartisan immigration reform, maintaining a strong economy, criminal justice reform and human trafficking.

Of the record 118 Pennsylvania women running for state office and eight women running for U.S. Congress, 91 are Democrats and 35 are Republicans. That surpasses the previous state record of 77 women on Pennsylvania ballots in 2014, when 49 Democrats and 28 Republicans were seeking office.

The higher number of women running this year is a trend across the country.

A record 256 women won U.S. House and Senate primaries across the country.

“Woman candidates have been viewed already as major winners of election 2018,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

But even if every woman on a ballot wins her race on Tuesday, Nov. 6, women would still hold less than 25 percent of congressional seats nationwide.

“Achieving gender parity will take more than one cycle,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Having more women run, like this year, is the only way to change that, she said.

“Now, we watch to see if these records turn into record numbers of officeholders come November,” Walsh said.

Democrats like their chances.

“We expect women Democrats to fare extremely well in November. Pennsylvania currently has no women in Congress, and Pennsylvania Democrats can send seven this year. A record number of women are running for state legislative seats as well, and we intend to pick up seats in Harrisburg this November,” said Brandon Cwalina, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

“We’ve seen tremendous Democratic enthusiasm and momentum in voter registration and engagement. We are going to work hard every day from now until November knocking on doors, making phone calls, recruiting volunteers and encouraging Pennsylvanians to vote for Democrats who will restore some sanity to the political process and ensure government works for everyday Pennsylvanians, not special interests,” he said.

Republicans also like their chances.

“Having a robust ground game is critical in any election and it’s the work of staff and volunteers that make the difference in getting people out to vote and winning elections,” Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Val DiGiorgio said in a statement.

Staffers and volunteers are working hard to get out the message about Republican candidates up and down the ticket, so voters are informed and ready to choose Republicans in November, he said.

“The Republican field program is unparalleled and we will do what it takes to ensure every effort is put forward to tell voters about every race, every candidate, and every issue to help them make their decision as Election Day approaches,” DiGiorgio said.

Analysts say, like always, it comes down to turnout.

“Will Democrats see a small blue wave or a big blue wave?” said G. Terry Madonna, a veteran political analyst and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “If there’s a blue wave like there was a red wave in 2010 with the Tea Party movement, these seats like the 11th district are in play for Democrats.”

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York Daily Record
Candy Woodall
October 8, 2018