Lessons of 2018: Both parties elected more women lawmakers than ever

Fourth in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

The largest group of women ever to run for the Iowa legislature has produced the largest contingent of women lawmakers in state history.

For the first time, women will make up more than a third of Iowa House members and a majority of the lower chamber’s Democratic caucus.

The number of women serving in the Iowa Senate will exceed the previous record set in 2013 and 2014. In a major shift from the recent past, the women senators will include almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

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Iowans will likely elect record number of women lawmakers in 2018

A record number of women running for office in Iowa this year has translated into a record number of women who will appear on our state’s general election ballot. Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics noted that 85 women (86 percent of female candidates on Iowa’s primary ballot) won their party’s nominations yesterday.

More women than ever will likely win Iowa House seats this November (current number: 28 out of 100). Female representation will almost certainly increase in the state Senate too and could exceed the previous record (ten out of 50 senators in 2013-2014). Follow me after the jump for details.

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Annette Sweeney wins Iowa Senate district 25 special election

Republican Annette Sweeney will represent Iowa Senate district 25 for the remainder of the year after winning today’s special election by 4,742 votes to 3,726 for Tracy Freese (56.0 percent to 44.0 percent), according to unofficial results. Although that may not sound like a close race, Freese’s vote share was impressive in a district with nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

Hillary Clinton received about 33.6 percent of the vote in Senate district 25 in November 2016. Two years earlier, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley received just under 34.8 percent here. Democrats did not field a candidate in Senate district 25 during the 2014 cycle.

In addition, Freese was a first-time candidate, whereas Sweeney represented parts of this district for four years in the Iowa House. The Iowa GOP also spent far more promoting Sweeney during the brief special election campaign (truncated because Majority Leader Bill Dix resigned during the legislative session) than the Iowa Democratic Party did on behalf of Freese. Unlike the December special election in Senate district 3, Republicans had quite a few canvassers and ballot chasers out during the last several days.

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Iowa Senate district 25 preview: Tracy Freese vs. Annette Sweeney

Voters in Iowa Senate district 25 will elect a successor to disgraced former Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix on April 10. The special election campaign is happening on a compressed timetable because the vacancy arose during the Iowa legislature’s session. Dix should have faced pressure to resign last year over his many missteps in handling sexual harassment in the Senate GOP caucus. Instead, he stepped down unexpectedly last week after publication of a video and photographs showing him “in a romantic relationship” with a lobbyist.

Local Democrats nominated Tracy Freese for the special election on March 17. Sweeney won the GOP nomination three days later. The former Republican lawmaker will be heavily favored on April 10 and in the November election for a full four-year term. However, if Freese keeps it closer than expected, the special election may provide a snapshot of high Democratic voter engagement, like the recent over performance by Todd Wendt in Iowa Senate district 3 and Rita DeJong in Iowa House district 6.

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