2014 Mid-Term Elections: The State of Women – US Senate

VRL member Jo Ousterhout works to increase the number of women in political leadership.

In the 2014 mid-term elections, there were 33 Senate seats up for re-election. Additionally, three special elections were held to fill seats vacated during this Congress. Of these 36 races, there were 13 races with at least one female candidate. And women represented both sides of the ballot in the West Virginia and Maine races, a sign that both parties see the power and possibility of including women in positions of political power.

There were four incumbent women Senators up for re-election: Susan Collins (R, ME), Kay Hagan (D, NC), Mary Landrieu (D, LA), and Jeanne Shaheen (D, NH).  Of these four, Collins and Shaheen won, Hagan lost, and Landrieu faces a run-off election on December 6th.

Of the remaining nine races, of which women won two, Democrats fielded six women candidates and Republicans fielded four. Iowa (Joni Ernst, R) and West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito, R), both won their races, resulting in a pick-up of two seats for women. Those wins are also a pickup of two seats for Republicans, as male Democrats currently hold both seats.

Ernst and Capito are especially noteworthy as each is the first woman to represent her state in the US Congress; Delaware, Mississippi and Vermont now remain the only states to have not elected a woman to either the House or Senate.

A summary of the nine non-incumbent races is below (winners in bold):

Democrat Republican State
Alison Lundergan Grimes Mitch McConnell KY
Michelle Nunn David Purdue GA
Bruce Braley Joni Ernst IA
Gary Peters Terri Lynn Land MI
Amanda Curtis Steve Daines MT
Connie Johnson James Lankford OK
Jeff Merkley Monica Wehby OR
Joyce Dickerson Tim Scott SC
Natalie Tennant Shelley Moore Capito WV

This current Congress, the 113th, has 20 women Senators. When the 114th Congress begins next January, we will again have 20, and possibly 21, if Mary Landrieu wins the Louisiana run-off election.  Party composition will shift slightly – from 75% D and 25% R to 70% D and 30% R, a shift in keeping with the overall movement towards Republicans in these midterms.

Forty-four women, compared with 1,950 men, have served in the Senate in the 225 years since the body first convened in 1789. Our two newest women Senators will increase that unsatisfactory total to 46.

Clearly we have a long way to go to elect a Senate that reflects the demographics of our democracy.