On election night, all eyes were anxiously glued to news channels, groaning or cheering as the electoral results rolled in. Come night’s end, President Obama won another four years in the White House. All of us were also watching which way the Senate — with its seven toss up seats — would go.
It’s all about the two parties, right? And who controls what? Well, there is another potent force marching into Washington this January: women.
Heading into this election, women held 16.8% of the seats in Congress: 17 in the Senate and 73 in the House. The 2012 election had record numbers of women running: 18 women running for Senate and 166 for the House.
The Senate had 17 women serving the last two years. Six went up for re-election. Of the 33 Senate seats in play, eight women were likely to win, with the possibility of being joined by up to four more from toss-ups battles (Elizabeth Warren v. Scott Brown; Heidi Heitkamp v. Rick Berg; Tammy Baldwin v. Tommy Thompson; and Shelley Berkley v. Dean Heller).
Eleven female senators won their races on election night: Feinstein (D-CA); Hirono (D-HI); Warren (D-MA); Stabenow (D-MI); Klobuchar (D-MN); McCaskill (D-MO); Fisher (R-NE); Gillibrand (D-NY); Cantwell (D-WA); Heitkamp (D-ND); and Baldwin (D-WI).
That brings the grand total of Senate women to 19. It may be only two more than the previous session, but it is nothing to scoff at.
The House is a bit more complicated. Though women began with 73 seats, seven did not seek re-election. We were left with 66 women running as incumbents, 74 women running as challengers, and 26 women running for open seats.
Now the votes are in: women won 79 Congressional seats. Gaining six seats, women will make up 18% of the House of Representatives.
Want to know the breakdown of parties of these women? The Senate will see one new woman from the GOP and three from the democrats. All six democratic women up for re-election emerged victorious. The House now has a total of 20 Republican and 59 Democratic women.
This election may have kept the parties in control of the same branches of power they had yesterday, but more women are heading to Washington. Eighteen percent is not the 20% that some were looking for, but the women who have been elected are sure to make a lasting mark in our nation’s capital.