Skip to main content

Are more women running because Trump won?

When President Trump was elected, Jami Smith decided to run for office.

"If Hillary had won, I probably wouldn't be running right now,” she said. “Now it's like, okay, somebody's got to clean up this crap.”

After Trump was sworn in, women in Seattle and across the country took to the streets. The marches were reportedly the biggest in U.S. history. And now, some women are going beyond protest. They're running for office.

Smith is a manager at the Allen Institute here in Seattle. Last year, she was national delegate for Hillary Clinton. Now, she wants to serve on the Renton City Council.

"I went through the five stages of grief in like 30 minutes and then came back to anger and just kind of stayed there,” she said. “When the women's march was organized it was like, yes, we get to say something. We get to do something."

This weekend, Smith plans to attend a "boot camp" for women candidates here in Seattle. It's being put on by an organization called Emerge Washington that trains Democratic women who are running for office — or thinking about it. Nationally, Emerge America reports an 87 percent increase in applications to their programs training women candidates after the 2016 election.

Smith says she's excited for the weekend because the advice she's already gotten from experienced women candidates has been invaluable. It's ranged from strategy, to tips on how to survive long days of campaigning. One of her favorite ideas — shoe inserts that make it easier to stay on your feet all day. “Saved my life!" Smith said.

One of the speakers at the Emerge boot camp in Seattle this weekend is Democrat Noel Frame, who represents Seattle's 36th district in the state legislature.

"People are absolutely clamoring for opportunities to get involved in their democracy,” she said. “I'm seeing more women capture that opportunity, and saying why not me and why not now?"

Frame says seeing more women run is more important this year than ever, even in a state that already has two women in the U.S. Senate, and four in Congress.

"Frankly, Washington used to be this national leader — in the 90s we were over 40 percent women representation in the legislature, and that's steadily gone down."

But this year that trend could change. In the 45th legislative district, for example, two women of color are competing to fill an open Senate seat.

The result could determine which party controls the State Senate.

But whoever wins, it would change the gender balance. Currently around 36 percent of the state legislature are women.

For Jami Smith, doing something meant more than marching.

"Activism and protesting are very useful as tools in garnering awareness,” she said. “My passion is the problem, and what I want is the solution. I really want to actually do something, and there's where I really felt like being in office gives me an opportunity to actually do something."

Down in Renton, one of Smith's two opponents is incumbent city council member Ruth Perez. Smith says it's a sign of progress that there are two qualified women of color in the race.

"Don't limit me or discriminate against me because of the color of my skin,” Smith said. “But don't give me things that are unearned because of the color of my skin, too. Judge me by the content of my character and the viability of my ideas."

Here in Seattle, it's been 90 years since a woman was mayor.

This year, though, no one can blame women for not trying: At a recent mayor’s forum, two-thirds of the candidates on stage were women.

Why you can trust KUOW