Women played a larger role in the 2018 midterms than in any other election in American history. In total, 255 women ran for office in the two major parties, 197 of whom ran as Democrats. The trend toward women's political empowerment is not subsiding, either: Rep. Nancy Pelosi recently reclaimed her position as Speaker of the House as Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first of several women anticipated to announce a run for the presidency in 2020.
As campaign season quickly approaches, the prospective Democratic field could grow to as many as two dozen candidates. Among them is almost certain to be a substantial number of women from diverse backgrounds, with at least one Republican woman considering running against President Trump. With the midterm elections firmly in the past, it's time to meet 10 of the women who will likely be major influencers in the 2020 presidential election.
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar surprised election-watchers when she earned a full 10% of the vote in a December 2018 poll of potential caucus-goers in the primary bellwether state of Iowa. That's quite a feat, considering how crowded the 2020 Democratic field is shaping up to be and how little national name-recognition Klobuchar enjoys compared to higher-profile potential candidates like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Known as a tireless campaigner, Klobuchar toured all 87 counties in Minnesota before being handily re-elected to a third term in the Senate. She officially announced her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination at a snowy rally in Minneapolis on Feb. 10.
Claire McCaskill was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the state of Missouri. Although she lost her re-election bid in 2018, her tenure stands as a model of how Democrats may be able to win in staunchly conservative regions of the country. While she has been attacked by many in the progressive wing of the Democratic party, her position as a self-proclaimed centrist with cross-party appeal could prove a powerful selling point to Republicans and independents looking for a Trump alternative.
On New Year's Eve, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first in what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats to officially throw her hat into the 2020 ring. Soon after announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, the Oklahoma native traveled to Iowa to pitch her candidacy in the state where the first presidential nominating contest is held. A longtime law professor and ferocious consumer advocate, Warren enjoyed a quick rise to political superstardom when her progressive stance against corporate greed and economic inequality caught fire with small donors, who accounted for 58% of her Senate re-election campaign donations as of Nov. 1, 2018.
A former First Lady, U.S. senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is one of the best-known and most controversial women in the history of American politics. Clinton suffered two defeats that kept her from winning the presidency: first, in a primary battle to then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, and most recently in the general election to President Donald Trump in 2016. Although conventional wisdom suggests that her most recent campaign was her last, many pundits and media outlets—including the Wall Street Journal—believe she's got one more fight left.
Formerly the attorney general of California, Kamala Harris in 2016 became the first Indian-American woman and only the second African-American woman elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Harris is well-positioned to energize a Democratic base eager to put its diversity on display against a national Republican leadership comprised almost exclusively of older white men. Harris, however, offers more than just experience and demographic qualities that are attractive to the Democratic base: She has also proven willing to take bold, unequivocally progressive positions on complex cultural issues while not shying away from attacking President Trump and his policies. Harris officially announced her 2020 presidential bid on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Kirsten Gillibrand is a senator from New York—elected after being appointed to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton—who previously served in the House of Representatives. An outspoken advocate for women's rights and a towering figure in the #MeToo movement, Gillibrand received criticism from the left when she became among the first Democrats to call for the resignation of then-Sen. Al Franken, who was accused of inappropriate behavior in 2018. She said in a recent interview that the Senate's most important and immediate job is to protect Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Gillibrand announced her candidacy for the 2020 nomination during a live appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Jan. 15.
Stacey Abrams was the first black woman major-party gubernatorial candidate in U.S. history. She lost her 2018 bid for Georgia governor following a long, nationally publicized campaign season marred by accusations against her opponent, now-Gov. Brian Kemp, of voter suppression. Abrams' hard-fought campaign, stunning fundraising ability, charisma, and refusal to concede have made her an attractive candidate for many on the left who are seeking fresh faces.
Susana Martinez, the former Republican governor of New Mexico and chairwoman of the Republican Governor's Association, was the subject of presidential speculation in 2016. The first Hispanic woman governor of any state and the first woman to hold the New Mexico State House, Martinez has positioned herself as a Trump-alternative primary candidate while publicly and repeatedly attacking the president's views on immigration, his derogatory statements toward women, and his divisive rhetoric.
Correction: previous versions of this story stated Martinez was the governor of Arizona and the current governor of New Mexico. It has been revised to indicate she is the former governor of New Mexico. Martinez served as governor from 2010 until 2018.
From civil rights and criminal justice reform to gun safety and inclusive healthcare, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth promotes issues in lockstep with much of the Democratic platform. Few potential candidates, however, have selling points quite as powerful as hers. Duckworth lost both of her legs in 2004 while serving as an Army helicopter pilot in Iraq. Her military service could make a compelling contrast to President Trump, who talks frequently about military pride but avoided serving himself under potentially dubious circumstances. Duckworth is also the first woman to give birth while serving as a senator.
At just 37 years old, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is barely old enough to meet the Constitution's presidential age requirement of 35. Yet on Jan. 11, she officially declared a run for the 2020 nomination. Gabbard is a rising star in the Democratic party who established her progressive bona fides by endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016 and advocating for single-payer healthcare. A combat veteran who served tours in Iraq and Kuwait, Gabbard became the first Hindu member of Congress when she was elected in 2012.