Voters in five more states hit the polls Tuesday for yet another round of primary elections.
Next up, following last week’s "Super Tuesday” state primary voting spree, are contests in Nevada, Maine, North Dakota, South Carolina and Virginia.
Keeping with the national trends, several of those states have seen an uptick in female candidates on the ballot compared to recent years, according to the Center of American Women and Politics.
With a number of competitive seats in play, how those candidates fare — both on Tuesday and in November — could impact both gender parity and the state of national politics. Here are some of the stakes for women on the ballot this week:
Maine is the only state in the country that has never elected a woman to a statewide executive office. That could change this year.
Women have represented the state on the federal level (Maine’s current congressional delegation includes U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree) and in statewide posts appointed by the state Legislature. But a woman has never served as governor, which is the only state-level executive job filled by voters, according to CAWP.
At least four women are in the running for Maine’s gubernatorial primaries. Janet Mills, the current attorney general and a longtime fixture in Maine politics, is considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor. Progressive activist Betsy Sweet and Donna Dion, a former mayor, are also on the crowded ballot. On the Republican side, Mary Mayhew is seen as a contender for her party’s nod.
Because the state is trying out a new ranked-choice voting system this year, observers say the results could be hard to predict. If a female candidate does make it through Tuesday’s primary, she’d be the third woman in the state’s history to run as a party’s gubernatorial nominee. Either way, the race to replace outgoing GOP Gov. Paul LePage is expected to be a competitive one this November.
Maine isn’t the only place where voters could take a step closer to smashing a glass (gubernatorial) ceiling. Christina Giunchigliani is seen as one of the top contenders for the Democratic nomination in Nevada’s heated gubernatorial contest. The former state legislator’s bid has garnered an endorsement — and big spending —from Emily’s List, the influential PAC that backs female candidates who support abortion rights. On the GOP side, Stephanie Carlisle is seen as trailing frontrunner Adam Laxalt for her party’s nomination.
The Silver State is, along with Maine, one of 22 states that have never elected a woman to the post.
South Carolina’s current congressional delegation includes zero women. But this year, four of the seven House races up for grabs include at least one woman on the primary ballot, CAWP says. Six women are running for Congress in all.
Congress isn’t the only place where the state is falling short on gender parity. Both the state’s U.S. senators are also men. And only one woman — Superintendent of Public Instruction Molly Spearman — serves in statewide elected office at this time. But woman are running for a number of executive posts, including governor.
North Dakotans, meanwhile, will decide whether to move one step closer to sending a woman to the U.S. House for the very first time. Tiffany Abentroth, a Marine veteran, is one of three candidates running for the GOP nomination for the state’s one at-large House seat. She faces an uphill battle; the frontrunner in that race in terms of fundraising and the GOP’s endorsement is a man.
The outcome of Tuesday’s contests will set the stage for some of the most competitive battles of the general election, including several that are certain or likely to feature female candidates.
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is running unopposed in her state’s primary Tuesday. But her state went for President Trump in 2016 and, come November, she’s expected to face a tough re-election challenge from GOP U.S. Kevin Rep. Kramer.
In Nevada, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is competing in primary to take on GOP U.S. Sen. Dean Heller. That race is also expected to be one of the most competitive U.S. Senate contests of the year — as the Associated Press notes, Heller is the only Republican U.S. senator up for re-election in a state won by Hillary Clinton.