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A Groundbreaking Election for Women in Congress? Kind of.


— Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics


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Women across the United States made several gains in this week’s election, producing a string of firsts down the ballot and nudging up representation in both the House and the Senate.

A total of 131 women will serve in the next Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Though ballots are still being counted in some races, that figure is already up from the record of 127 set in 2019.

For the first time, voters in Missouri elected a Black woman to the House, Washington State elected a Korean-American woman to the House, New Mexico’s three-member delegation to the House will be made up entirely of women of color and a woman will represent Wyoming in the Senate.

These gains, though significant, are small.

“What do we count as success?” said Kelly Dittmar, director of research at C.A.W.P. “If you measure success by overall representation, we’re far short.”

Women still make up just under a quarter of the 535 seats in both the House and the Senate. Thirty-one Republican women were voted in — which is more than in any other election cycle — representing about 13 percent of their party in both the House and the Senate, as of today. On the Democratic side, 100 women were voted in this cycle, which is short of the party’s record of 106 women in the House and the Senate that was set in 2019.

The numbers are even slimmer for women of color: There are 47 women of color in Congress, all but one representing the Democratic Party (Maria Elvira Salazar, from Florida is, according to C.A.W.P., the lone Republican congresswoman of color). Of those 47 women, just four are senators.

In the 2018 midterm elections, a historic number of women drove the Democratic takeover of the House, flipping 21 seats. Only one Republican woman was elected to the House that year. The stark results set off alarm bells within the Republican Party, prompting a concerted effort to recruit a more diverse slate of candidates this year. As a result, the party had more female candidates at the start of the cycle than ever before — 227 filed to run for House seats and 23 for the Senate.

In the end, 23 Republican women were voted into the House this year, of whom 13 were non-incumbents. Further, Republican women flipped six of the eight seats that the party gained in this cycle, Ms. Dittmar added.

“The highest number of Republican non-incumbent women to ever win in a single election cycle for the House is nothing to sneeze at,” Ms. Dittmar noted. “But they’re largely making up for losses that they had experienced, particularly in the 2018 cycle. We need at least this level of gains for them in every election cycle, if we actually want to see them get closer to parity within their party.”

Many in the new class of Republican women elected to the House — which includes the QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, who toppled another Republican by portraying him as insufficiently supportive of President Trump — aren’t moderates, adding to a longstanding trend of both parties pulling further away from each other and the middle ground.

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