updated 10/24/2006 10:56:48 AM ET 2006-10-24T14:56:48

More women are running for state legislative seats than ever before, a group that tracks women's involvement in American politics said Monday.

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A record 2,431 women are running for state legislative seats on Nov. 7, 56 more than the previous record of 2,375 set in 1992, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute.

"To see an increase is a good sign, but one year does not make a trend," said Debbie Walsh, the center's head. "It's taken us 14 years to break the old record."

It's important to see women running for and winning election to their state legislatures because the seats provide a pipeline to higher office, Walsh said.

"A tremendous amount of policy is made that affects citizens, so we need women's voices in that policy-making mix," she said.

Of the women seeking office, 1,563 are Democrats, 859 are Republicans and the rest are third-party or nonpartisan candidates.

The winners will join 240 women who are currently serving in their legislatures who do not have to stand for re-election this year.

The total of 2,431 does not include women who are running for other statewide elected posts: 10 women running for governor, 18 for lieutenant governor and 75 seeking other elected executive positions.

2006 key races

New Hampshire, with 228, has by far the most women running this year. Next are Minnesota, with 123, and Maine, with 115. Nebraska, with 7, and Arkansas, with 17, had the fewest women running.

Four states don't have November state legislative elections.

In South Dakota, where 42 women are running, up from 38 in 1994, more women may be seeking office this time because of a reproductive rights initiative also on the ballot, Walsh said. That initiative seeks to roll back legislation limiting abortion rights.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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