AMES, Iowa – Women tend to wait until later in life to run for political office, but that is changing with the record number of women on the ballot for this fall’s midterm election.

Kelly Winfrey, interim director of the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, says it is exciting to see younger women, as well as women with different racial and ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations, engaged in the political process.

Women are not shying away from the gender issue. Instead, they’re embracing it as part of a strategy to connect with voters, said Winfrey, who studies women voters and campaign messaging. This is the first election in which there are several women with military backgrounds running for office, and they are highlighting that fact in campaign ads. Winfrey says some women – including gubernatorial candidates in Maryland and Wisconsin – also have ads that show them breastfeeding.

“It really shows the human nature. I’m a woman. I’m running for office. I’m a mother. I’ve got to do these things to get through my day and one of them is feeding my child and some of it might be making laws,” Winfrey said. “So candidates are really demonstrating that they can do it all, which is one of the challenges female candidates have had in the past.”

Women voters tend to swing elections, Winfrey adds, while men are more evenly split. As a result, women candidates are reaching out to women voters and talking to them as women.

Iowa State University News Service has a fully equipped, digital broadcast studio available for live and recorded video interviews to broadcast networks. Contact Angie Hunt (515-294-8986, or Dave Olson (515-294-5992, in the ISU News Service office to arrange an interview.