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2020 Elections

More Women Running For Montana Legislature Than In Last 20 Years

The Montana State Capitol is pictured.
Jackie Yamanaka
Lawmakers convene at the Montana State Capitol for no longer than 90 days each odd-numbered year.

This year more women are running for the Montana Legislature than in any election over the past two decades.

Eighty-six women are vying for legislative seats. That’s seven more than the previous 20-year high in 2014, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Fifty-one Democrats and 35 Republicans, another high, are running this year.

University of Montana political scientist Sara Rinfret says the influx of female candidates in Montana reflects a nationwide trend.

“In terms of women saying, ‘Hey, we're going to run for local and state offices at higher percentages.’ And you have organizations supporting those efforts because it takes a lot of money to run for office," she says.

Women currently hold nearly 31 percent of seats in the Legislature, which places Montana 22nd among all states for proportion of women, according to Rutgers.

Eight women are also running for statewide public office and the Public Service Commission in the Treasure State, including four Democrats, three Republicans and one nonpartisan Supreme Court justice.

Rinfret says gender parity is an important step to ensure legislative bodies actually represent all of their constituents.

“You know, thinking about paid maternity leave, or access to childcare, or pre-K. If you don't have women and minorities at the table to make legislation you're missing those voices," she says.

Rinfret says there are still considerable barriers to women running for public office. She says voters are conditioned to expect a certain type of elected official, and women are seen as the exception instead of the norm.