More Iowa Women “Emerge” to Enter Political Arena

DES MOINES, Iowa – Women make up 51 percent of the United States’ population, but slightly more than 19 percent of Congress. With a record number of women running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, most of them Democrats, those numbers could change come November.

In Iowa, 98 women are expected to have their names on the ballot in the June 5 primary, a 44 percent increase over 2016. Many are being trained by Emerge, a group with a mission to boost the number of Democratic women leaders in public office. Judy Downs, executive director of Emerge Iowa, said that if women want social change, they need to get their names onto the ballot.

“We’re a state where we have 13 percent of our state House and 16 percent of our state Senate are female,” she said, “so to see those kind of numbers and that kind of increase could really shake up the demographic at the state Capitol.”

There are currently 28 women in the 100-seat Iowa House and six in the 50-person Iowa Senate. Emerge has chapters in 24 states focused on training women how to run for political office.

Research shows that women often don’t run for office because they don’t feel qualified or haven’t thought about politics as a potential career path. Downs, who recently was elected to her local school board in Urbandale, said women have to get as comfortable representing their state as they do their kids.

“Representation is vital in business and elected office at every level where policy is made, and studies have shown that women are more effective elected officials,” she said. “We co-sponsor bills across party lines, and that’s something I think everyone can agree is really important right now.”

In 2017, Iowa women defeated incumbents in several local firsts: Decorah elected its first female mayor, and in Waterloo, two women defeated incumbents on an all-male city council.

The Research is online at



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