New Records for Women in New Jersey and Virginia

Women set new records as general election candidates in New Jersey and Virginia state legislative races following the June 8th primaries, according to preliminary data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. While Virginia did not select one of the two Black women competing for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, the state is all but assured to elect its first woman lieutenant governor this fall with the nomination of Hala Ayala in the Virginia Democratic primary for lieutenant governor and the May nomination of Winsome Sears by Republicans. Either woman will become the first woman lieutenant governor in Virginia as well as the first woman of color to be elected statewide. In New Jersey, at least five Asian women won primary elections in state legislative contests; should they win in November, they will become the first Asian women elected to the New Jersey legislature.

Here are some key takeaways from the June 8th primaries:

New Jersey

  • Incumbent Governor Phil Murphy (D) was unopposed in his primary bid for re-election. His current lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver, is expected to be his running mate again in 2021. Oliver is one of three Black women lieutenant governors currently serving nationwide.
  • 80 (52D; 28R) women won primary elections for New Jersey state legislative seats. This surpasses the previous record of 77, set in 2017. 
  • 19 (13D; 6R) women won primary elections for the New Jersey Senate. This falls short of the previous record of 25, set in 2017.
  • 61 (39D; 22R) women won primary elections for the New Jersey General Assembly. This surpasses the previous record of 60, set in 2019. 
  • At least 5 Asian women won primary contests. Should they win in the general election, they would become the first Asian women elected to the state legislature.
  • New Jersey currently ranks 25th among the 50 states for women’s representation in its state legislature, with women holding 37 (30.8%) of state legislative seats, 11 (27.5%) of Senate seats, and 26 (32.5%) of General Assembly seats.

Virginia

  • Two Black women – Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy and Senator Jennifer McLellan – were defeated by former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for the Democratic nomination for Virginia governor.  No woman has ever been elected Governor of Virginia, and no Black woman has ever served as a governor in the United States.
  • Delegate Hala Ayala won the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s lieutenant governor. She will face former Delegate Winsome Sears, who won the Republican nomination in a May convention. Either woman will become the first woman lieutenant governor of Virginia, as well as the first woman of color to serve in statewide elective office in the state. Ayala identifies as Afro-Latina and Middle Eastern, and Sears identifies as Black.
  • 65 (46D; 19R) women won primary elections for the Virginia House of Delegates. This surpasses the previous record of 62, set in 2019. 
  • There are no elections for the Virginia Senate this year.
  • Virginia currently ranks 28th among the 50 states for women’s representation in its state legislature, with women holding 42 (30%) of state legislative seats, 11 (27.5%) of Senate seats, and 31 (31%) of House of Delegates seats.

For additional current and historical information, visit state data pages for New Jersey and Virginia.