[Photo Credit: Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily’s List/Twitter]

It’s Election Day, and a lot has changed in the past year. The results of the last presidential election sparked a political awakening for many people, but in particular for women. In fact, 2017 has seen more women run for office at the local and state level than any year prior. Read on to learn which races you should pay attention to and why this year is groundbreaking for women in politics.

More Women Than Ever Are Running For Office

Emerge America, a training program for Democratic women interested in running for office, was bombarded with interest from women in the aftermath of last year’s presidential election. “We had actually closed our application process for our 2017 classes, and all of our affiliates had to open them back up, because so many women wanted to apply,” explains A’shanti Gholar, Political Director of the organization, which saw an 87% increase in applications.

Emily’s List, an organization that has been helping pro-choice Democratic women get elected for over 30 years, also saw an astronomical rise in the number of women who have reached out to them. Julie McClain Downey, National Director of Campaign Communications for Emily’s List, said that 920 women got in touch with the organization from 2014-2016. However, since the presidential election, 20,000 women have contacted them.

20,000.

Never let it be said that women weren’t up for the challenge!

Keep an Eye on Mayoral Races

“Mayors are pipelines of future leaders,” says McClain Downey. “They can go on to run for higher offices.” And this year, there are a number of historical races for Mayor where women may win. Below are just some of the Mayoral candidates endorsed by Emily’s List:

Vi Lyles (Charlotte, NC) is a former Charlotte budget director and assistant city manager for the city of Charlotte. She will be the first African American woman mayor of Charlotte if elected.

Juanita Perez Williams (Syracuse, NY) has a long history of working in the law for New York State. She will be the first Latina mayor of Syracuse if elected.

Yvette Simpson (Cincinnati, OH) is a distinguished attorney who ran for Cincinnati City Council to help improve the local economy and empower the city’s youth population. She will be the first directly-elected woman and first African American woman mayor of Cincinnati if elected.

Yvonne Spicer (Framingham, MA) began her career as a teacher, and rose quickly in her field, becoming department chair and then accepting a leadership position in the Newton school district. She will not only be the first African American woman to hold the position, but the first Mayor of Framingham ever, as this is the first time the town will vote in someone for the position.

Women Will Make a Huge Impact in Virginia

The Virginia House races are providing a huge opportunity for women candidates. In fact, the state is seeing the highest number of women running to date. One thing to note: 17 of the house seats up for grabs are in districts where Hillary Clinton won, but are currently represented by GOP men. It will be exciting if these women reclaim the seats in this election.

According to McClain Downey, the house races and women in Virginia to keep an eye on include: Dawn Adams (HD-68); Hala Ayala (HD-51); Karrie Delaney (HD-67); Kelly Fowler (HD-21); Jennifer Carroll Foy (HD-02); Wendy Gooditis (HD-10); Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31); Kathleen Murphy (HD-34); Djuna Osborne (HD-17); Debra Rodman (HD-73); Danica Roem (HD-13); Shelly Simonds (HD-94); Kathy Tran (HD-42); Cheryl Turpin (HD-85); and Tia Walbridge (HD-33).

You Can Still Get Involved

Feeling inspired after reading about all of these amazing women? Why not run for office yourself?! While it’s too late to run for a position this election day, note that not every position is voted for on the second Tuesday in November. Some towns hold spring elections for council seats, etc…

In the meantime, get involved locally. Find a candidate that you support and volunteer, because that’s a great way to discern if running for office is right for you! We asked Susan Henderson-Utis, an Emerge America alum and first time candidate who is running for Rose Tree-Media School Board in PA, why she decided to enter her local race. She told us that while she had thought about running for office for a “long, long time,” she had always seen it as a “some day” undertaking. Until last year’s presidential election.

“I thought, ‘Enough is enough.  I am just as qualified — in fact more qualified — than most of the people in office.’ I’m a licensed lawyer, a certified teacher, a home owner, a caregiver of aging parents and two little kids — between life experience and school I have plenty to offer my community.  A man in my position wouldn’t question his credentials, so why was I holding back? I think it’s time women stop devaluing themselves and waiting for the perfect time to run for office.  I felt like I HAD to act after the last election. It’s time for smart, dedicated, progressive, open, and collaborative women and men to jump into the arena and let their voices be heard and fight the good fight.”

And by the number of women up for election today, it is clear that Susan is not alone.  No matter which candidate you support, and no matter how “big” or “small” the race, the most important thing you can do today is get out and vote!