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SPEAKING TO SUPPORTERS—In this May 22 file photo, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams smiles before speaking to supporters during an election-night watch party in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

ATLANTA (AP)—Women are not just running for office in record numbers this year—they are winning.

More women than ever before have won major party primaries for governor, U.S. Senate and House this year—paving the way for November battles that could significantly increase the number of women in elected office and change the public debate on issues such as health care, immigration, abortion rights, education and gun control. Some of these candidates could also play a pivotal role in whether Democrats are able to take control of the U.S. House.

“We are seeing a level of enthusiasm among women voters that we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Democrat Laura Kelly, who is running for governor in Kansas and will need women, independents and moderate Republicans in her bid against Republican Kris Kobach.

Beyond gender, women are also poised to usher in a wave of diversity next year.

Michigan will likely send the nation’s first Muslim-American woman to Congress, after Rashida Tlaib beat a crowded field of Democrats for the 13th Congressional District. No Republican is running in November for the heavily Democratic seat.

There are nearly 50 Black women running for Congress this year, from Democrat Lucy McBath who is challenging GOP Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia to Republican Rep. Mia Love’s bid for a third term in Utah.

In Georgia, Stacey Abrams is aiming to become the nation’s first Black female governor while Paulette Jordan would be the first Native American governor in U.S. history if she wins her race in Idaho. And Democratic voters in Vermont recently selected Christine Hallquist as their nominee, making her the first transgender candidate to win a major-party gubernatorial nomination.

Black women are competing—and winning—not only in districts with a majority Black electorate, but also in diverse districts across the country. Each victory is a vote of confidence in their leadership for those who step up, said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights for America, which supports Black female candidates and galvanizes black women as voters.

“In addition to Black women wanting to be part of history, people are realizing that regardless of what you look like, the leadership of the country has been predominantly White and male for far too long,” Peeler-Allen said. “Seeing the value of having diverse voices around decision-making tables is not limited to one demographic group, but includes people who want a more reflective democracy.

(This article has been edited for length and clarity.)

 

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