A record number of women will serve in the next Congress



“Hey mommy, when are we going to go after this seat?” she requested Mace, who had simply gained reelection to the state House.

The solely non-incumbent lady elected to the Senate is a Republican: former Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.

There will be at the least six new women of coloration in Congress — 4 Democrats and two Republicans — together with Democrats Cori Bush, who will be Missouri’s first Black congresswoman, and Nikema Williams, who was elected to the late Rep. John Lewis’ seat in Georgia. Based on the races CNN has referred to as, there will be at the least two extra women of coloration general than in the 116th Congress, for a complete of 50 up to now, in the 117th Congress.

But the majority of the 24 non-incumbent women becoming a member of Congress in January are White, together with 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats. At least 91 White women will serve in the 117th Congress, up from 79 this 12 months.

The success of GOP women in the House

The upward pattern in women general in the House is a bipartisan story. Democratic women have been largely answerable for flipping the House in 2018, setting a brand new record by electing 35 non-incumbent women. This 12 months, although, it is Republican women who’ve made vital features. After electing only one new Republican woman to the House in the midterms, Republicans this 12 months have elected at the least 15 non-incumbent women.

That means the number of Republican women in the House will at the least double. (Currently there are solely 13 women in the House GOP convention, and two of them didn’t run for reelection.) Democrats are including 9 new women, which balances out these they misplaced to defeat and retirement, growing their numbers to 89 for now.

“Republican women are still going to be extremely underrepresented,” mentioned Kelly Dittmar, director of analysis at the Center for American Women and Politics. “This year they were really making up for losses,” she added, noting that this time two years in the past, there have been 23 GOP women.

Whereas Democratic women have lengthy been boosted by the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List, which stands for “Early Money is Like Yeast,” Republicans have lacked comparable infrastructure to take a position in feminine candidates. There’s additionally been an ideological opposition to taking part in in primaries, particularly in any manner that may invoke identification politics.

That angle, at the least, started to shift after 2018, when New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who had recruited greater than 100 women as head of recruitment for the House GOP marketing campaign arm, solely to see one of them win, publicly sounded the alarm. She relaunched her management PAC for the sole function of taking part in in primaries to assist women, which the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee called “a mistake” at the time. But whereas the marketing campaign committee nonetheless doesn’t play in primaries, its management acknowledged it needed to do higher electing numerous candidates — rallying behind one other lady, Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks, as the head of recruitment for 2020 — and now proudly touting feminine candidates’ success this 12 months.
But by far the greatest purpose for that success is that extra Republican women raised their palms to run than ever earlier than — in half as a result of they noticed what Democratic women did in 2018 — and more of them won primaries, which has historically been the greatest hurdle.

“Women around the country have watched other women before them be successful and realize, ‘Hey, I can do it,'” mentioned Iowa GOP Rep.-elect Ashley Hinson, who final week defeated Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer, one of the women who flipped a district in 2018.

“It was the perfect storm. We had competitive seats that were winnable and we had incredible women in those districts with prior legislative experience and who knew how to put a campaign together,” mentioned Julie Conway, the government director of VIEW (or Value in Electing Women) PAC, which has helped elect GOP women to Congress since 1997.

Just as Democratic women have been in 2018, Republican women this 12 months have been well-positioned to take benefit of a good surroundings. “The only way that could have happened was if it was a better-than-expected year for Republicans, right, and I think it was,” Dittmar mentioned of the features GOP women have been in a position to make.

“Being the first Republican woman elected to Congress in the state of South Carolina is deeply humbling,” Mace mentioned. “It reminds me that Democratic women do not hold a monopoly on breaking glass ceilings.”

New voices in Congress

Even with women in Congress breaking information, they will doubtless symbolize simply over 1 / 4 of the legislative department. Obstacles stay — each to women operating and successful.

Women candidates usually obtain questions their male colleagues don’t — like who’s going to take care of their children. For Hinson, out door knocking in her Iowa district, that was a second to mirror on why she was operating in the first place. “The lady at the door, she thought I should be at home with my children. And I basically said, ‘Well, I’m setting a good example for them.'”

The elected women agree the views they create to Congress are wished — and wanted.

“They picked me this time, they know that I’m a mom, I drive a minivan, you know, we have a regular life here in Iowa,” mentioned Hinson, a state consultant and former journalist who thinks her communication expertise will assist her in Congress.

Rep.-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux, the solely Democrat who has up to now flipped a aggressive GOP-held district this 12 months, won in the northeast Atlanta suburbs that are actually the epicenter of the political battleground with the Senate majority hinging on two Georgia Senate seats.

A professor and former finances director for the Georgia state Senate, Bourdeaux first ran two years in the past, arising 433 votes brief in a recount towards the GOP incumbent who determined to not run once more in 2020. “Many people here didn’t even know that there were Democrats in their neighborhood,” she mentioned of the groundwork that that preliminary race laid.

“A lot of women were very much galvanized by Donald Trump, and their concerns over the direction of the country, and the loss of really basic rights — reproductive rights — that all of a sudden was on the ballot in a way that it was not before. So being a woman, I think, was helpful in speaking to those issues,” Bourdeaux mentioned.

Mace, the South Carolina Republican, finds herself at the reverse finish of the political spectrum, however she too feels strongly about bringing her perspective to the House.

After dropping out of highschool, she labored as a waitress at a Waffle House. In 1996, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion in a choice that required the Virginia Military Institute, a state-funded college, to simply accept women. “That decision literally changed my life,” mentioned Mace, who grew to become the first lady to graduate from the Citadel.

“Freshman year at the Citadel was a lot like running for Congress,” she mentioned, noting the challenges and the significance of each achievements — and the manner gender impacted her expertise.

“I mean, you can be tough, but you can’t be a B-I-T-C-H, right? There’s a boundary there as a female candidate that you can only be so tough before you cross that line and people start judging you in a different way.”

As a state lawmaker, Mace earned headlines for talking publicly about her personal expertise of rape when advocating for an modification to an anti-abortion measure that would come with exceptions for rape and incest.

“The ability to stand up against members of your own party, even when it’s leadership, especially now more than ever is more important to voters,” Mace mentioned.

Looking forward

Many of the Republican women who gained this 12 months have been in aggressive districts. Republicans have flipped eight Democrat-held seats, based on CNN projections up to now, and women have delivered all however one of these wins. That means they’re prone to face troublesome reelections in the future, presumably towards Democratic women.

That worries Conway of VIEW PAC, who fears that Democratic and Republican women will proceed knocking one another out in the best seats each two years. “The whole idea of having ‘girl seats’ does not get us any closer to parity,” she mentioned.

A record 643 women ran for Congress in 2020 — 583 for the House and 60 for the Senate. That’s double the number of women who ran in 2016, although it has not but translated to twice as many seats.

That is in half as a result of as extra women run for workplace, they’re additionally extra usually operating towards one another, each in primaries and normal elections. In 2016, women ran towards one another in 17 House and Senate normal election races, based on information from the Center for American Women and Politics. In 2020, that grew to 51 races with women difficult one another.

Traditionally the surest manner for Republican women to take care of and enhance their ranks has been to elect extra women in protected seats. At least 5 women gained this 12 months in seats rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, a CNN contributor.

The reply? Encouraging much more women to run.

“I’ve already gotten texts from other women who are interested in running here in Iowa since the election last week,” mentioned Hinson, who praised the mentoring she acquired from different women in elected workplace in addition to from outdoors teams like Winning for Women and VIEW PAC, which, as a result of of the pandemic, hosted common Zoom calls with all of its endorsed candidates so they may get to know one another. (Hinson will proceed to get to know her new colleagues just about since a optimistic Covid-19 take a look at is preserving her away from in-person new member orientation this week in Washington, DC.)

But serving to one another might not at all times come naturally, some mentioned. “Women are far worse on other women than they are on their male colleagues,” mentioned Mace, reflecting on her expertise at the Citadel, in enterprise and in politics. “Women don’t like to see other women be successful.”

“I do feel like it’s gotten better over the years, but I see it more often than not, and it’s true on both sides of the aisle. That’s why I’m always encouraging women to run.”



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