Democrats running for state legislature in New Hampshire and New York won two seats Tuesday night that had for decades been held by Republicans — victories that national Democrats heralded as a promising sign for a party that lost ground in statehouses across the country during the Obama era.
In both cases, women led the way.
“We’ve been performing well in a lot of districts and keeping swing districts in Democratic hands, but these are the first legislative pickups of anyone since Trump got elected. So we’re really excited,” said Carolyn Fiddler, a spokesperson the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in an interview. “These are really good indicators of Democratic performance this fall.”
Edie DesMarais, a retired special education instructor, became the first Democrat ever elected in New Hampshire’s town of Wolfeboro, with a narrow 56-vote victory. The first Democrat in 2017 to flip a seat from red to blue, she won a seat for the New Hampshire House in an area that went to Donald Trump by a 51-44 margin, according to the Daily Kos.
Similarly, in New York, high school teacher Christine Pellegrino became the first Democrat to win in her deeply conservative district, which is located along the southern shore of Long Island. Trump won the district by 22 points.
“This is a thunderbolt of resistance,” Pellegrino, 48, told Newsday. “This is for all the supporters and voters who understand a strong progressive agenda is the way forward in New York.”
Ever since the Women’s March the day after the inauguration, women have played a central role in organizing, protesting, and jamming congressional phone lines to oppose Trump’s agenda. (One activist group’s internal poll found that 86 percent of anti-Trump calls to Congress have been placed by women.)
Women are also signing up to run for office in record numbers. The first special election of 2017, in Delaware, was won by Stephanie Hansen, 55. In Virginia, a record number of Democratic candidates in races for the House of Delegates are women, according to Fiddler. Democrats’ candidate in a crucial special election to determine control of the Washington state Senate this fall is a female prosecutor.
The two candidates who won Tuesday night — DesMarais and Pellegrino — are harbingers of a wave of women Democratic candidates crashing into GOP strongholds around the country, Fiddler said.
“These women are part of genuine upswell of women who have decided to run for office this year,” she said. “These activist women candidates have really stepped forward. And they’re winning too.”
All eyes will now turn to Montana, where Democrats are hoping for a much bigger upset in a special election race for the state’s lone congressional seat. Democrat and banjo player Rob Quist faces off against Republican Greg Gianforte on Thursday.