Will There Be Fewer Women US Senators in the 117th Congress?
The number of women nominees for the office in 2020 is down from two years ago
The results of the 2018 midterms saw the number of women lawmakers in D.C. reach record levels in both chambers.
There are now 26 women in the U.S. Senate, but it is not clear that this number will increase after the 2020 election cycle. In fact, there could be fewer than 26 women in the chamber come January 3rd – reversing a trend over the last decade during which the number of women senators has increased by more than 50 percent from the 112th Congress (2011-2013) when there were just 17 in the legislative body.
In total, 19 Democratic and Republican women have been nominated for U.S. Senate thus far this cycle.
[Note: That number does not include appointed U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia where there is no primary in that state’s special election. Multiple women, including the incumbent, are vying to win a majority of the vote, but a runoff is likely to occur among the top-two finishers. Loeffler is the only candidate considered to have a chance among the women candidates in the race to make it to the runoff.]
With just a few states slated to hold their primaries in September, one other women nominee could yet emerge: Republican Lauren Witzke of Delaware.
Women are guaranteed to pick up one senate seat in the chamber. In Wyoming, two women nominees – former GOP Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis and Democratic professor Merav Ben-David – will face off to replace retiring Republican Mike Enzi. [Lummis is heavily favored].
Three other states also find women-vs-women showdowns in November:
- Iowa: Democratic businesswoman Theresa Greenfield against first term Senator Joni Ernst
- Maine: Democratic state Representative and House Speaker Sara Gideon against four-term Senator Susan Collins
- West Virginia: Democratic environmental advocate Paula Jean Swearengin against first term Senator Shelley Moore Capito
That leaves 11 states with one woman from a major party on the general election ballot (excluding Georgia’s special).
Women challengers in four states are facing the longest of odds:
- Idaho: Former Democratic state Representative and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Paulette Jordan against two-term Senator Jim Risch
- Oklahoma: Democratic attorney and journalist Abby Broyles against five-term Senator Jim Inhofe
- Oregon: Former Linn County Republican Chairwoman Jo Rae Perkins against two-term Senator Jeff Merkley
- Tennessee: Democratic environmental advocate Marquita Bradshaw in an open seat race against former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Republican Bill Hagerdy
Three other Democratic women challengers are underdogs, but have polled within single digits and thus are given a chance at the ballot box this November:
- Kansas: State Senator Barbara Bollier in an open seat race against U.S. Representative Roger Marshall
- Kentucky: Former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
- Texas: Teacher and U.S. Air Force veteran M.J. Hegar against three-term Senator John Cornyn
Conversely, two women U.S. Senators who won special elections last cycle are seemingly maintaining single-digit advantages in their respective races and thus are considered slightly vulnerable:
- Minnesota: First term Democratic Senator Tina Smith against former U.S. Representative Jason Lewis
- Mississippi: First term Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith against former congressman, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy in a rematch
That leaves two other incumbent women on the 2020 general election ballot.
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is heavily favored to win reelection to a third term against a soon-to-be determined GOP opponent.
Meanwhile, appointed Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally (pictured at top) is an underdog against former astronaut Mark Kelly.
A McSally loss coupled with the aforementioned Lummis victory in Wyoming would keep the number of women in the chamber steady at 26.
However, Senator Loeffler in Georgia could also lose her seat to U.S. Representative Doug Collins should those two Republicans move on to the expected runoff in that special election.
Even counting Loeffler and the possible nomination of political newcomer Witzke in Delaware, there are fewer major party nominees in the 2020 cycle (21) than there were in 2018 (23).
The four states featuring two women major party candidates in 2020 is the second highest in an election cycle.
In 2018, this occurred in six states: Arizona (Kyrsten Sinema vs. Martha McSally), Minnesota (Tina Smith vs. Karin Housley), Nebraska (Deb Fischer vs. Jane Raybould), New York (Kirsten Gillibrand vs. Chele Farley), Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin vs. Leah Vukmir), and Washington (where Maria Cantwell and Susan Hutchison emerged as the top two candidates from that state’s jungle primary).
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1. “…2018 US Senate nominee Mike Espy…” The former us Secretary of Agriculture was not ‘nominated’ by his party – though he rather than ex-Gautier city councilor Toby Bartee was arguably the preferred choice of the party establishment (both he and Hyde-Smith are de jure nominees this time).
2. Interestingly, non-incumbent nominee Lummis’ prospects seem to be stronger than any other XX R standardbearer, with the possible exception of 1st termer Shelley Moore Capito of WV, which is becoming nearly as strongly R as the Cowboy State in a short time period.