Last night, something pretty remarkable happened in America.
No, not just Speaker Nancy Pelosi clapping back (no, really) as President Trump delivered a State of the Union address that emphasized his anti-choice beliefs. And not just the images of the 131 women of the 116th Congress, many wearing white, although that was a powerful visual reminder of the progress our country has made towards representation, and the distance that remains to true equality.
But after Trump’s speech ended, defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams delivered the official Democratic response—and reminded us of the importance of women running for office, even if they do not win.
Stacey Abrams has spent her political career making history. When she was elected House Minority Leader in 2010, she became the first woman to lead a caucus in either chamber. In her run for governor of Georgia, she captured the imagination of the country as the first African American woman to be a gubernatorial nominee for a major party. She staunchly defended her pro-choice stance in a conservative state, refusing to compromise her belief that women can and should make their own healthcare decisions. She garnered endorsements from President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, bringing attention and energy to an election many would otherwise have written off as unwinnable. And she built a campaign infrastructure that will serve pro-choice Georgian candidates in future elections.
This is why women should run, even if they do not win—this time. With her campaign, Abrams created a national platform that she is now using to make history (she is the first African American woman to deliver the SOTU response), to focus attention on critical issues (ending voter suppression in the U.S.), and to bring a new voice to national conversations. By running an excellent campaign for political office, even though she lost, Abrams now has a spotlight, and is using it.
Here in Washington state, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington is dedicated to recruiting, training, and supporting pro-choice women candidates up and down the ballot. We conduct trainings every year on how to run for office, endorse pro-choice women, and invest in campaigns. We want every pro-choice woman to win, but also believe that there is value in speaking up—and that women like Connie Fitzpatrick (26th LD), Carolyn Long (WA-3rd), and Pinky Vargas (42nd LD) made a difference by running, even if they do not win the first time.
Furthermore, we know that elections are not always the end of the road. Lisa Brown, former U.S. House candidate in Spokane, was just appointed to head Washington State’s Department of Commerce, leading the state’s economic development efforts. And just this week, Anacortes City Council member Liz Lovelett (whom we endorsed in her Council race) was appointed to the Washington State Senate from the 40th LD, bringing Washington’s percentage of women in the legislature to 40.8%.
So when women run, women win, even if that victory isn't at--or immediately at--the ballot box.
Kiana Scott is an NWPC-WA board member.