by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – reprinted with permission.

Despite being 51% of the population (and 53% of the voting population,) women currently make up just 17% of Congress, 23.6% of state legislatures and women hold just 6 governorships. Shockingly, the United States is 78th in the world when it comes to female representation in our federal government.

This is simply unacceptable and is one of the reasons I started Off The Sidelines as a call to action to women to become more engaged in politics and to make their voices heard on the issues they care about. The more women are engaged in their communities and the more women’s voices are heard, the more diverse the views that are represented and the better the outcomes will be for everyone. Getting more women to run for office is a crucial part of that. Which is why I’m thrilled we have a record number of women running for Congress this year.

A total of 298 women filed to run for the House in 2012 – breaking the old record of 262 – and a record 163 women are on the ballot in November. Among Democrats running for U.S. Senate, we have 6 women running for re-election, and 5 more women challenging sitting Republican Senators, again, a record.

It’s clear that this year, women will be the key to holding our majority in the U.S. Senate and possibly making Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House once again.

Through my Off The Sidelines effort, I’ve been proud to raise more than $500k for women candidates all over the country from Kathy Hochul in New York to Christie Vilsack in Iowa to Tulsi Gabbard in Hawaii. Today, I hope you’ll join me in supporting our five extraordinary women Senate challengers: Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Shelley Berkley in Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.

– In Wisconsin, Republicans have nominated former Bush HHS Secretary and Ryan budget-backer Tommy Thompson to oppose Tammy Baldwin, who would make history as the first openly gay U.S. Senator. Extremist groups like the Koch brothers’ Super PAC have already spent millions attacking Tammy and are poised to dump millions more.

– Polling shows Shelley Berkley in a tight race with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who famously said he was “proud” to have voted twice to end Medicare as we know it. This is one of Democrats’ top take-back opportunities, but right-wing Super PACs have already spent $2.6 million attacking Shelley and show no signs of slowing.

– In North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp has surged ahead of Rep. Rick Berg in some polls. But Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and other right-wing groups have already spent more than a million on scurrilous attack ads, including one spot so egregious it had to be pulled from the air.

– Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono has a shot at becoming the first Asian American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate. She currently leads former Gov. Linda Lingle, but the Republican and her right-wing allies are outspending Mazie nearly three-to-one.

– Progressive champion and fighter for the middle class, Elizabeth Warren, wowed us and the nation on stage in Charlotte and has taken a small lead over Scott Brown. Let’s help her keep the momentum going.

As you know, Republicans need just 4 seats to retake the Senate. I’m confident that if these five extraordinary women win in November, we’ll keep the Senate in Democratic hands. I hope you’ll join me in supporting their campaigns today.

Also, please share this image on Facebook to get the word out about our fantastic women running for U.S. Senate this year!

In 2012, Women Are Key to Holding Onto the Senate