This Tuesday, a striking number of voters will see women on their ballots. There are 262 female-identifying candidates vying for congressional seats this year, as compared to 81 in 2016, and 42 running for governor and lieutenant governor — a notable increase from eight female candidates in 2016, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
The female contenders — mothers, singers, military combat veterans and fighter pilots, members of the LGBTQ community, Law & Order fans, people of color, among many others — are still facing a political field dominated by men. As Congress stands today, less than 20 percent of the House and 22 percent of the Senate are women. The gubernatorial field is no better — with only 6 of 50 candidates identifying as female.
But a wide slew of research has shown that women are just as likely to win elections as men — they just run for office less frequently. That means this year could be a big one for the SHEros out there.
Get to know some of the women fighting to lead our nation.
MJ Hegar, Democratic Candidate for Texas’ 31st Congressional District
A former major and pilot in the Air National Guard and a Purple Heart recipient, MJ Hegar, 42, is looking to defeat incumbent Republican Rep. John Carter with progressive policies and powerful campaign ads. Her campaign video attacking Carter, who has kept his seat in landslide victories for more than a decade, went viral — with The Washington Post calling it “one of the best ads — and most effective opponent attacks — you’ll see in 2018.” Through the video, titled “Doors,” Hegar raised $750,000 in just ten days. “Congressman Carter hasn’t had a tough race his entire career, so we’ll show him tough then we’ll show him the door,” the video says.
Stacey Abrams, Democratic Candidate for Governor in Georgia
If victorious, Stacey Abrams, 44, would become the first female African American governor in the United States. She is running against Republican Brian Kemp in what has become one of the most contentious races in the country. Abrams has elicited strong feedback from United States presidents — with Barack Obama pledging his support and Donald Trump condemning her as “one of the most extreme far-left politicians in the country.” Abrams has also received celebrity support from Oprah Winfrey and Will Ferrell, both of whom recently hit the campaign trail for her.
Abrams has also received attention for her non-political work. Under the name Selena Montgomery, Abrams is an award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels.
Abrams is running alongside Sarah Riggs Amico, who is fighting to be lieutenant governor. The two women reportedly play Beyoncé’s “Run the World” at campaign events.
Mallory Hagan, Democratic Candidate for Alabama’s 3rd District
Crowned Miss America in 2013, Mallory Hagan is ready for a new title: Representative. The 29-year-old Democrat is running against incumbent Republican Mike Rogers, a Trump supporter who has held the seat since 2003. “I think I’m a different type of candidate, yet I still offer some of the things people find attractive about President Trump. I am a political outsider, I am also tired of petty politics and I’m tired of career politicians,” Hagan, 29, said.
RELATED NEWS: Meet PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World of 2018
Alyse Galvin, Independent Candidate for Alaska
Alyse Galvin is running for Alaska’s lone seat in the House of Representatives. The first independent candidate to represent the Democratic Party in a general election after winning the primary, Galvin is now gearing up to face the House’s longest-serving member, Republican Rep. Don Young. She would also be the state’s first woman representative in the House.
Kyrsten Sinema, Democratic Candidate for Arizona’s Senate Seat
Kyrsten Sinema, 42, is running against Martha McSally in a tight race. If she wins, Sinema will become the first openly bisexual senator in the country. Either way, this match-up ensures that Arizona will have its first female senator after November 6.
Stephany Rose Spaulding, Democratic Candidate for Colorado’s 5th District
Stephany Rose Spaulding would be Colorado’s first African-American representative in Congress. In addition to working as a pastor and professor of women’s and ethnic studies, Spaulding is a fan of spending her weekends with The Golden Girls and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Amy McGrath: Democratic Candidate for Kentucky’s 6th District
Amy McGrath, 43, is in a tight race against incumbent Rep. Andy Barr, who sailed into his seat with a 22 percent cushion only two years ago. A former Marine combat aviator, McGrath is the first woman Marine to fly in an F-18 into combat. Inspired to run by Trump’s victory, McGrath is hoping to break into Kentucky’s all-male Congressional delegation.
Lucy McBath, Democratic Candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District
Lucy McBath’s political career was born from tragedy. In 2012, McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed outside of a gas station. Since his passing, McBath, 58, has served as the national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. According to recent polls, McBath is trailing just behind Republican Incumbent Karen Handel.
Maria Elvira Salazar, Republican Candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District
Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American and former TV news anchor, is running against former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (D) and immigration attorney Mayra Joli (I) for an open seat. The New York Times called this district “the best Democratic pick-up opportunity in the country.”
Rashida Tlaib, Democratic Candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District
Rashida Tlaib, expected to win in a landslide given her overwhelmingly Democratic district, is likely to become the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress. Tlaib, 42, a Muslim Detroit native and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, would replace Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned after a 53-year career amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Sharice Davids, Democratic Candidate for Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District
Once a mixed martial arts fighter and now a Democratic candidate for Congress, Sharice Davids is leading Incumbent Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder for the House seat. Ever since his 19-point margin victory in 2010, Yoder has won the district by double digits. His district, however, narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election — creating what the Kansas City Star has called a “national Democratic wave fueled by anger against President Donald Trump.”
Mikie Sherrill, Democratic Candidate for New Jersey’s 11th District
Sherrill, 46, a former federal prosecutor and United States Navy helicopter pilot, is running against Republican New Jersey Assemblyman Jay Webber. With strong backing from her party, Sherrill, a married mom of four, is poised to win her primary and flip a district that has been in Republican control since the late 1980s.
A Naval Academy graduate, Sherrill told The New York Times, “It’s incredibly important that I decided to serve my country before deciding to run for office. That shows where my center is.”
Sherrill has said that Trump motivated her to serve her country again, noting that she is “appalled” by the president’s agenda and his “attacks on women, minorities, Gold Star families, POWs and the Constitution.”