The winning percentage of women seeking another term in the chamber lags behind men by approximately five points

After losing two seats during three of the preceding four election cycles, every woman U.S. Senator on the ballot in 2022 was victorious (as were all the men): Alaska Republican Lisa Murkoski and Democrats Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, and Patty Murray of Washington.

In 2024, eight of the 14 women in the chamber up for election have already announced they are seeking another term: Republican Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Democrats Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jacky Rosen of Nevada (pictured), Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Arizona independent Kyrsten Sinema and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn have yet to formally announce their plans while Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are retiring.

The remaining incumbents should be heavily favored to win their party’s nomination (though speculation of a primary challenge to Gillibrand in New York lingers) and only Sinema would likely be an underdog in the general election.

Over the last 30+ years, as the number of women in the chamber has slowly grown, incumbent women have just slightly lagged behind men in their bids to serve another term.

At least one woman U.S. Senator has run for reelection in every cycle since 1990 and, since that time, these incumbents have been victorious 83.8 percent of the time – 62 wins versus 12 defeats.

Incumbent men in the nation’s upper legislative chamber have performed slightly better during this 17-cycle span: winning in 350 out of 396 attempts, or 88.4 percent.

Since 1990, only once has a woman U.S. Senator lost her party’s nomination (appointed Republican Sheila Frahm of Kansas in 1996), though most political observers acknowledge Senator Sinema would have joined that list had she retained her Democratic Party affiliation.

Of the 12 women who were defeated since 1990, nine were in their first term: Frahm, Illinois Democrat Carol Moseley Braun (1998), Missouri Democrat Jean Carnahan (2002), North Carolina Republican Elizabeth Dole (2008), North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan (2014), New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte (2016), North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (2018), Arizona Republican Martha McSally (2020), and Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler (2020).

It should be noted that over the last five cycles since 2014, 19 of the 33 women who have run for another term in the U.S. Senate either were defeated in the general election (seven incumbents) or won by just single digits (12 incumbents), or 58 percent.

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  1. Flickertail-Pembina on April 14, 2023 at 7:33 am

    2022 / Class 3, XX:

    Had the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune had its way, Duckworth would be vice president today rather than have been re-elected to her seat (in which case the ‘jinx’ that began in 1992 would have remained intact). On the other hand, Harris in all likelihood would have been re-elected with ease – and would now rank in the top 15 on the “all time vote list” herself (rather than Senator Padilla).

    Hassan and Cortez Masto proved that their initial victories were not flukes, having won re-election bids even as the gubernatorial nominees of their party were losing (six years prior, they barely defeated their respective Republican opponents, arguably with unintended assists from right-leaning independent candidates in both who overtly embraced the R nominee for president).

    Following her resounding re-election, Murray started her new term not only as a major committee chair and senate pro tempore but also – for a few days – SECOND in the line of presidential succession – while the House was deadlocked in the floor election for speaker.

    At least a few observers would “acknowledge” that, had AK still used the traditional partisan primary election mechanism, Murkowski would have joined the ‘casualty list’ rather than win her fifth term. P.S. She, like Frahm, DID lose the nomination of her party in ’10 – though she would retain her seat by a narrow margin less than three month after her stinging electoral loss.

  2. […] Everett, Burgess. “Will Women US Senators Run the Table in 2024?”. Smart Politics. Retrieved July 7, 2023. eight of the 14 women in the chamber up for election have […]

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