Americans elected record numbers of women to Congress on Tuesday. Beginning in January, 20 women will serve in the U.S. Senate, and 78 women will serve in the U.S. House. During the past two years, seventeen U.S. senators and 73 U.S. representatives were women.
Although Iowans continued our streak of not sending women to Congress, we did elect some new women to the state legislature, producing a slight gain in the total number of female lawmakers.
Since 2011, the Iowa Senate has included eight women and 42 men. Three women were not up for re-election this year: Republicans Nancy Boettger and Sandy Greiner, and Democrat Amanda Ragan.
Four female incumbents were re-elected on Tuesday: Republican Joni Ernst and Democrats Liz Mathis, Mary Jo Wilhelm, and Pam Jochum.
Democrats Janet Petersen and Rita Hart won open-seat Senate races, bringing the number of women who’ll serve in the upper chamber next year to
nine. CORRECTION: I omitted Amy Sinclair, a Republican who won an open seat. That makes ten women in the upper chamber.
Senator Pat Ward passed away last month. A special election to fill her seat will take place on December 11. Republicans are unlikely to nominate a woman to run against Democrat Desmund Adams. UPDATE: Charles Schneider is the GOP candidate in Senate district 22, so there is no chance of electing another woman to the Senate this cycle.
Since 2011, the Iowa House has included 24 women and 76 men. Three retired before this year’s election: Republicans Kim Pearson and Betty De Boef, and Democrat Janet Petersen (to run for the state Senate).
Two Republican women lost their re-election bids: Annette Sweeney was defeated in a GOP primary, and Renee Schulte lost on Tuesday.
That leaves 19 women who were re-elected to the Iowa House: Democrats Deborah Berry, Ruth Ann Gaines, Mary Gaskill, Lisa Heddens, Anesa Kajtazovic, Vicki Lensing, Mary Mascher, Helen Miller, Jo Oldson, Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Sharon Steckman, Phyllis Thede, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Cindy Winckler, and Mary Wolfe, and Republicans Mary Ann Hanusa, Linda Miller, Dawn Pettengill, and Linda Upmeyer.
Five women won open-seat Iowa House races on Tuesday: Democrats Marti Anderson, Nancy Dunkel, and Sally Stutsman, and Republicans Megan Hess and Sandy Salmon.
Patti Ruff defeated a Republican incumbent, which makes 25 women elected to the next Iowa House.
To sum up, the next Iowa House will have 53 Republicans (47 men, six women) and 47 Democrats (28 men, 19 women).
For now I am assuming Susan Judkins will fall just short against Republican incumbent Chris Hagenow in House district 43. If a recount changes the outcome of that race, we’ll have 26 women in the Iowa House next year. UPDATE: After counting absentee and provisional ballots, Hagenow leads by 22 votes. That margin is likely to hold, but I expect a recount after the results are certified next week.
Iowa is decades away from anything like gender parity in our state legislature, but we are taking baby steps in the right direction.