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More and more women are running for office in N.C.

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger (middle left) celebrates her sweeping re-election victory with her husband and children at the City Kitchen restaurant in 2017. 

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger (middle left) celebrates her sweeping re-election victory with her husband and children at the City Kitchen restaurant in 2017. 

More women than ever are running for office at the national level, and that trend is reflected in North Carolina's upcoming elections. 

Seven women have advanced to the general election for the United States House of Representatives, and almost 100 women are on the ballot for the North Carolina General Assembly.

Gailya Paliga, state president of the North Carolina Chapter of the National Organization for Women, said national political trends are driving many women to run for office. She also emphasized that misogyny and cruelty at a national level have grabbed a lot of people’s attention. 

“A lot of women mention that the women’s marches have inspired them to run,” Paliga said. “I’ve seen that at the local and state level in North Carolina.” 

Local issues have encouraged women in North Carolina to take political action too, Paliga described.

“Women are also responding to terrible things happening here,” she said. “Our state legislature is out of control.”

Dr. Kyle Horton, a Democrat running in North Carolina’s seventh congressional district, said women from both political parties are interested in better representation and bipartisan solutions. 

“We’re 101 in the world for the percentage of women in parliament or congress,” Horton said. “That is a travesty, and as we see things like the #MeToo movement and other movements gaining momentum, women want to see people who look like them and care about their interests with a seat at the table.”

Horton said she brings a unique perspective to the table as a female physician who also holds a master's degree in business administration. 

“There are no women physicians currently serving in congress,” Horton said. “I think it’s important that we have female healthcare providers in power, as sometimes it ends up being 16 men behind closed doors making decisions about basic women’s health.”

Paliga also identified healthcare policy as something that is motivating women who are currently running.

“Women will represent the needs of women and families." Paliga said. “So, medical care, reproductive rights, public education, and clean water.”

National studies have suggested that more women running does not necessarily mean there are more women winning, but Paliga said many of the women have a fighting chance to win their districts.

Horton said internal polling shows people in the seventh district want more women in congress by 20 points.

A Pew research study published in August shows many people agree, with 61 percent of respondents saying that more women running for Congress is a good thing.

“Most people are very excited about having more women in office,” she said. “So what we’re seeing is that our campaign is resonating across the aisle because there are so many issues that are related to the health and wellness of family.”

Paliga said there are challenges to running for office that have held women back in the past.

“Women work but still feel obligated to take care of more than their fair share at home, and that’s part of it,” Paliga said. “It’s a huge time commitment. It’s a really big responsibility, and women really consider that and what it means and who is going to cover some of the other responsibilities.”

Horton said many women do spend a significant amount of time caring for their families. But she views it as something that gives women an edge in terms of multi-tasking.

“That’s what is unique about this moment and about being a woman who is running right now,” she said. “You’re part of a sisterhood of other women that have not been handed a seat at the table innately in politics or leadership in elected positions, so we know how to fight.”


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