Sherwood's Notebook: The 'Year of the Women' - NBC4 Washington
First Read
Your first stop for politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Sherwood's Notebook: The 'Year of the Women'



    Sherwood's Notebook: The 'Year of the Women'
    Mario Tama/Getty Images
    Protesters walk during the "Women's March on Washington", with the U.S. Capitol in the background, on Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Crowds of protestors choked city streets and plazas a day after U.S. President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th U.S. President.

    The elections in Virginia.

    The re-emerging #MeToo movement.

    Oh, and those little marches here and around the country that surprised the nation in their intensity last January.

    There has been a lot of pain to get to this point, but most anyone who is paying attention should realize we are in a significant moment in history.

    Although Hillary Clinton failed to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling in American politics in 2016, the role of women in our politics and life shifted dramatically in 2017.

    Any year-end look back helps tell the tale. And fair warning to the misogynists of any stripe, gender or position. You can be sure whatever roadblocks lie ahead, "Nevertheless, she persisted" will be the mantra.

    The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University has the numbers.

    As the 2018 midterm elections begin taking shape here in the final months of 2017, there are 374 women preparing to run campaigns for the House. For the Senate, there are 42 women doing so. That’s four times the number of women who were eyeing the House in 2015 — and 10 times those in Senate races for 2012 and 2014. In both cases, Democratic women dominate.

    On "CBS Sunday Morning" last weekend, host John Dickerson showed those numbers and said, "The door is closing on the era that protected powerful men in Washington ... and another door is opening."

    Many women are seeking office at the state and local levels, inspired both by the policies and comments of President Donald Trump and what they say is a concerted attack on women in state legislatures.

    In a November issue of The Nation, national correspondent Joan Walsh wrote that women in Virginia were inspired to seek office for many reasons, from the election of Donald Trump to the real and perceived attack on women in the state legislature. But she also noted that the magnitude and number of victories surprised friends and foes alike and that no one predicted the sweep of election victories in Virginia.

    Politico and others are reporting that Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock is benefiting from her outspokenness against harassment. Comstock, an establishment Republican who has been cool to Trump, is trying to fend off Democrats who hope to tie her to the president.

    "The struggle lies in the fact that [sexual harassment] is coming out in races across the country — in legislative bodies, in federal bodies and in both parties," Luke Macias, a Texas Republican consultant, said to Politico. "Every time it happens, even in some other state, it affects the mindset of voters."

    These election rumblings could affect Maryland races this coming year. The deep blue state has no elected women in statewide office and no female members in Congress. Incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin, 74, is rated "Safe Democrat" by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia. A popular elected official for 50 years (previously the State House and U.S. House of Representatives), he is not expected to have serious opposition.

    Two of eight Democrats running for governor are women: Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and Krishanti Vignarajah. Both are first-time candidates, although both have held national political jobs. Cummings — as an added bonus, some say — is the wife of powerful Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

    Former NAACP president Ben Jealous also is a first-time candidate. He picked as his running mate state party insider Susan Turnbull, who likewise has never run for office. Turnbull is from Montgomery County, a key to any Democratic victory. She says she was inspired to be a candidate, like many women and men, by Trump’s win.

    (A political aside: It was a mystery and missed opportunity this past week for the Jealous-Turnbull ticket. The eight Democrats appeared before a crowd of 900 business, community and political leaders at the nonpartisan Committee for Montgomery breakfast in North Bethesda. Jealous was on stage for more than an hour but never once mentioned Turnbull, who was circulating in the room.)

    It will be interesting to see how the other Democrats in the race pair up with lieutenant governor running mates before the February deadline. But some think this field of eight could shrink by then, and one or two of them could wind up as prospective running mates for someone else. As we’ve said, Maryland politics are in a historic shakeup even if Hogan wins re-election.

    Here in the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser leads the city but only four of 13 council members are women. They have been a slim majority in some other years. The first majority-female council was in 1979, with women holding seven of 13 seats. And, of course, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has represented the city in the House since her 1990 election.

    In January 2015, newly elected Mayor Bowser appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press” with then-Police Chief Cathy Lanier and then-Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson as “the women who run Washington." Lanier and Henderson since have been replaced by men.

    "People don’t quite realize how influential, how involved women are in this city," your Notebook told the Washington City Paper after that "Meet the Press" appearance. "But then, remember that the city itself is not respected."

    ■ A so-so final word. As some of you may have heard, we are stepping away from NBC4 after 28 years. Your Notebook may occasionally appear on future broadcasts, but we’ll be focusing on WAMU’s Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi at noon on Fridays, which we’ve done since 2009. Your Notebook looks forward to exploring the politics of our entire region without the daily grind of TV. And, of course, check back here for the Notebook in The Current’s next issue.

    Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.