Ms. Phillips, in turn, has accused Ms. Kaplan of trying to politicize women’s health, and defended her opposition to the bill by arguing that it went too far in allowing late-term abortions. She pointed to other legislation she had supported, including a bill to take guns from domestic abusers, as proof that she had been a strong advocate for women’s rights, sometimes crossing party lines to do so.
“It is very easy for a Democrat to say, ‘Oh, she’s a Republican. She’s one of them,’” Ms. Phillips said.
Republican female candidates may be particularly vulnerable to attacks on issues such as reproductive rights, especially from other women, said Kelly Dittmar, a professor at the Center for American Women and Politics.
“They’re often asked to answer for the party’s treatment of women,” Professor Dittmar said. “Republican women get that added layer of scrutiny: ‘I get that you have an ideology, but you’re also a woman, so how could you betray us in that way?’”
Other times, the effect of gender unfolds behind the scenes. Several candidates invoked their status as mothers to explain why they had decided to run. Ms. Smythe, in the Hudson Valley, cited an aphorism that women need to be asked to run several times before they actually consider it.
She said she had considered running for office after the Hobby Lobby case and the 2016 presidential election, but had not considered a State Senate bid until a male friend suggested it. “I was thinking of town board, perhaps. I was not thinking of State Senate.”
Rachel May, a Democrat who defeated the incumbent, Senator David Valesky, in last month’s primary in Syracuse, took a public speaking class before deciding to enter the race. She will face Ms. Burman, a Republican. “Women, I think, we tend to feel like we have to have all our ducks in a row before we put ourselves out there,” Ms. May said. “That was my way of doing that.”