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Women Candidates in 2008 - How Many Women Candidates Ran in 2008?

Beyond the Presidential and VP Races, the Number Was Not Record-Breaking


Updated November 14, 2008
If not for Senator Hillary Clinton and Governor Sarah Palin, 2008 would not go down in history as a particularly notable year for women in politics.

Although the two women broke ground in their respective races as the first viable female presidential candidate and the first female candidate to be nominated as vice president by the Republican party, overall the year saw fewer women running for public office at the national and state level.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, the number of women who ran for public office (at the federal and state levels) in 2008 was lower than the peak years CAWP has witnessed in the past. In some instances, those numbers were considerably lower than previous totals.

It is this middle level of female legislative and (to a smaller degree) executive leadership that channels future candidates into the top level of politics. Without an ongoing stream of capable and successful office-holders steadily building a track record of accomplishment over time, we may not a see woman running for president and/or vice president in 2012, 2016 and beyond.

From information compiled by CAWP, here is the breakdown of political races at the national and state level in 2008 that included women nominated as major-party (Republican or Democratic) candidates:

US Senate

    Number of:
  • states with Senate races - 33
  • states with women in the race - 6
  • women candidates - 7 (North Carolina has the only woman vs. woman race)
  • female incumbents - 3 (1D, 2R)
  • challengers - 4 (3D, 1R)
  • women running for open seats - 0
  • women currently serving in the Senate - 16 (11D, 5R)
This marks a record number of women holding Senate seats. The largest number of women to run for the Senate was 12 (8D, 4R) in 2006.

US House of Representatives

    Number of:
  • states with women in the race - 38 (with one primary run-off involving a woman)
  • women candidates - 133 (this includes 10 woman vs. woman races - 9 involve incumbents facing challengers and one is for an open seat)
  • female incumbents - 67 (50D, 17R)
  • challengers - 455 (37D, 18R)
  • women running for open seats - 11 (in 10 districts - one is a woman vs. woman race)
  • women currently serving in the House - 74 (11D, 5R)
The year 2004 saw a record number of women candidates running for House seats, when 141 (88D, 53R) secured major-party nominations.


    Number of:
  • states with gubernatorial races - 11
  • states with women in the race - 4 (4D)
  • women candidates - 4
  • female incumbents - 1 (1D, 2R)
  • female challengers - 2 (3D, 1R)
  • women running for open seats - 1
  • women currently serving as governors - 8
The record for largest number of female candidates running for governor was 10, set in 1994 and again met in 2002 and 2006.

State Legislature

    Number of:
  • states holding legislative elections - 44
  • states with women in the race - 6
  • women candidates - 2,301
  • female holdovers (legislators not up for election in 2008) - 319
  • women currently serving in their state legislatures - 1,749
The record for largest number of women running for state legislative seats was 2,429, set in 2006.

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