SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota is poised to see the highest number of female legislative candidates in a quarter century and possibly the state’s history.

The spike comes a year after the group called Leaders Engaged and Determined, or LEAD, formed to empower more women to seek public office, citing frustration with President Donald Trump’s 2016 election.

Kelly Sullivan, 31, joined the group shortly after the presidential election. She wasn’t politically active throughout most of her twenties, but she is now running for a seat in the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Sullivan said LEAD “gave me a confidence I didn’t know I had. It gave me a voice.”

More than 65 women have submitted petitions to run for the Legislature ahead of the June primaries, 14 of whom came from LEAD. The petitions put the number of women running in that race at the highest in recent history, above 31 percent, the Argus Leader reported .

Female candidates affiliated with the group are mostly running as Democrats, with one Independent and one Republican.

The nonpartisan group has encouraged women to run in legislative and municipal elections by teaching them how to create a website, fundraise and talk to constituents.

Erin Healy, 30, is running for a District 14 House seat. Healy said she has always wanted to throw her hat in the ring, but LEAD pushed her to finally start gathering signatures.

The organization’s candidates might not win, particularly against incumbents with legislative experience, said Susan Kroger, co-founder of LEAD.

“Our candidates are walking into this with the knowledge that it’s an uphill battle and it’s not going to be easy,” Kroger said. “But I think it’s a victory we see this many people running in the first place.”

Information from: Argus Leader,

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.