Mikie Sherrill, Chele Farley

Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

The New Wave: More Women Going For Higher Offices In First Bids

June 12, 2018 - 7:00 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- It’s not just that more women are now running for office – it’s the caliber of candidates who are running and the level of the offices they are pursuing.

In this week's edition of "New Wave: Women in Politics," Peter Haskell talked with two women seeking to go to Washington about why they chose to do it.

“A lot of first-time candidates are running for the U.S. House, and some for the United States Senate,” said Debbie Walsh, who heads the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Walsh said women are no longer feeling compelled to run first for school boards and town councils. More women are setting their sights on Washington.

Mikie Sherrill, 46, won a Democratic primary last week in the 11th Congressional District in New Jersey.

“Before this, I was a Navy helicopter pilot. I was in the Navy for almost 10 years – I went to the Naval Academy – and a Russian policy officer in the Navy, and when I got out, I went back to law school and became a federal prosecutor,” she said.

Sherrill challenged U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-New Jersey), who has since announced his retirement.

She said he was completely inaccessible.

“Our congressperson was refusing to hold town halls, which, you know, in refusing to meet with constituents – which, in a representative democracy – felt like job one to me, I decided to run for Congress,” Sherrill said.

In New York, Chele Farley is mounting a Republican challenge against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).

“I was the finance chair for the Republican Party, and I kept running around the state, and people said, ‘Why don’t you run for Senate?’ And I thought: ‘Well, that makes sense, but not now. I have young children. It’s really not a good time,’” she said, “and I went home and I mentioned it to my husband – who is a huge Democrat; I’m a Republican – and he said, ‘Are you crazy?’ He said: ‘This is an opportunity. This is not going to come around again. You have a real possibility of changing the discourse. You keep complaining about it… it’s the time to make a real change.”

Farley, 51, thinks she has the skills to succeed in D.C.

“I’m an engineer, and I’m a businessperson, so I negotiate for a living,” she said. “I mean, my sense was we need actual actions rather than talk.”

Walsh at Rutgers feels these mothers are representative of the new wave.

“You’re seeing younger women,” she said. “You’re seeing women with younger kids.”

A record number of women are running for Congress this cycle, and so far, 50 percent of them have won their primaries.