Female candidates across US stress gender, motherhood

ATLANTA (AP) — Women running for governor in Wisconsin and Maryland breastfeed their infants in their campaign videos. Another in Georgia tells voters that "the folks who have held the office of governor don't look like me."

The record number of women expected to run for office this year are already breaking barriers, upending traditional campaigning by emphasizing their gender as they introduce themselves to an electorate they hope is eager for change.

"Some say no man can beat Larry Hogan," Maryland Democratic candidate Krish Vignarajah says into the camera as she breastfeeds her daughter. "Well, I'm no man. I'm a mom, I'm a woman, and I want to be your next governor."

Experts are predicting a historic wave of female candidates, driven in part by Democrats frustrated over the election of President Donald Trump and actions by his administration and Republicans in Congress on issues such as health care and immigration.

The Women's March, the #MeToo movement and the surprising success of women running for the Virginia Legislature in 2017 have kept the momentum.

Vignarajah, a lawyer and former policy director for Michelle Obama, is one of seven Democrats and the only woman running in the Maryland gubernatorial primary. She said the 2016 presidential election was a "rude awakening of what happens when we become complacent" and her video was designed to show the everyday life of many moms.

"Historically speaking, women were perhaps more hesitant to highlight their womanhood," said Vignarajah, a Sri Lankan immigrant. "For me, I think it's an asset."

The candidates say their message to voters is that electing more women to office is not merely about representation. It's about a change in priorities so that more emphasis is placed on issues such as education, health care, early childhood development, workplace equality and paid family leave.

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