What to Watch for Women in 2024 Congressional and Gubernatorial Elections

As we look ahead to the first congressional primaries of election 2024 on March 5, here are some key stories and contests to watch for women in congressional and gubernatorial contests.  As the election cycle moves forward, CAWP will offer updated analyses of campaign trends at these levels, as well as additional analyses of gender in other state-level elections via Election Watch 2024

The number of women running for the U.S. House is down. 

As of February 20, filing deadlines for congressional contests have passed in 15 states. Combined, these states account for 46% of all U.S. House seats. While trends could change with the addition of candidates from the remaining 54% of House contests, this is an opportunity to take stock of the status of women’s candidacies and make some comparisons with previous cycles. 

With these necessary caveats, the current trend for women House candidates is downward from 2022. More specifically, comparing 2024 and 2022 counts among only states where filing deadlines have passed, the number of women candidates for the U.S. House in 2024 is down by 21.6% from 2022. 

But is this a gendered trend? So far, the data indicates it may be. While the number of men running for the U.S. House in these states is also down from 2022 to 2024, the percentage drop (11.1%) is lower than it is for women.

This is also a partisan trend. The percentage drops in Republican women (-34.4%) and men (-16.5%) are greater than those of Democratic women (-11%) and men (-2.2) in states where filing deadlines have already passed. For context, however, Democrats saw drops from between 2018 and 2022 while Republican candidates increased.

Is this just a story of electoral opportunity? More specifically, were there more open-seat contests – which are likely to attract more candidates – in 2022 than in 2024? The answer is no. There are 27 open-seat U.S. House contests across the 15 selected states in this analysis, more than the number (20) of open-seat primary contests in these states two years ago. 

Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in the candidate pool. 

Despite being more than 50% of the U.S. population, women are 24% of major-party U.S. House candidates, 18.3% of U.S. Senate candidates, and 21.7% of gubernatorial candidates in states where filing deadlines have already passed. 

This underrepresentation is especially stark among Republicans, where women are just 17% of House candidates, 13.7% of Senate candidates, and 13.3% of candidates running for governor in 2024. 

Almost all of these numbers are down – at least slightly – from 2024, when comparing to women’s representation among filed candidates in these 15 states in both years. The current representation of women among filed candidates at this point in election 2024 is also lower than the percentage of women candidates across all states in the last election cycle. This is consistent with the data presented above; if the raw number of women candidates has declined more than men’s candidate count from 2022 to 2024, we should expect that women will see a drop in their share of the pool of filed candidates. 

The number of incumbent women not running for re-election is at a high.

Already, 14 (11D, 3R) congresswomen have announced that they are not running for re-election to their current seats in the U.S. House or Senate. This is a record high for the number of voluntary departures for congresswomen (not due to electoral loss) in any single election cycle. 

Four (4D) of these women – Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) – are seeking advancement within Congress, leaving their U.S. House seats to run for the U.S. Senate. And U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) is running for governor in 2025.

The majority of women’s departures will come from retirements, with 7 (4D, 3R) women – Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) – already declaring that they will be leaving the U.S. House and 2 (2D) women – LaPhonza Butler (D-CA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) – retiring from the U.S. Senate. 

Incumbent congresswomen are not departing their current offices – whether to retire or to run for other offices – at higher rates than their male counterparts. As of February 20, women account for 28% of members that are not running for re-election, either due to retirement or bids for other offices; women are 28.2% of current members of Congress. Likewise, women’s representation among current officeholders mirrors departures within both parties and within pools of retirees alone. 

Another way to assess gender differences is to consider the percent of all women and men incumbents who are not running for re-election. At present, those percentages nearly match, with 9.3% of incumbent women and 9.5% of incumbent men in Congress departing their current offices.  

Does a drop in primary candidates signal a likely decline in women’s representation? 

No, especially at this rate — which is not unprecedented from previous cycles. While increasing the pool of candidates can certainly increase the likelihood of greater representation for women, other factors are more integral to the ultimate outcome. Most notable among these is the likelihood of success of women candidates in both the primary and general contests. After primary results start coming in, we’ll be better positioned to predict general election chances for increasing (or not) the number of women serving in the U.S. House in 2025.  

In the meantime, however, we will be watching another break of candidate data by gender and party. Among the states where filing deadlines have already passed, the number of women candidates for open U.S. House seats is down by 18.9% from 2022 while the number of men competing for open seats is up by 30.6%. This gender difference is consistent across both political parties. These numbers may not matter much if women fare better in open-seat primary contests and/or if men are running in open-seat contests favoring the opposite party. But at the least, we should pay attention to women’s presence in non-incumbent candidate pools that offer the greatest opportunities for electoral success, whether they are for open-seat contests or in competitive challenges to incumbents. 

Some Contests to Watch 

While it’s too early to map out likely pick-ups for women in the 2024 election, below are some contests to watch with regard to women’s possible success and the potential to achieve notable milestones as a result of election outcomes. 

U.S. Senate

In open-seat U.S. Senate contests in California, Delaware, and Michigan, women – all current House members – are among the most competitive candidates. 

  • In California, current U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D) and Katie Porter (D) will compete in the March 5 top-two primary for a seat that favors Democrats.
  • In Delaware, current U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D) is strongly favored to fill the state’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2025.
  • In Michigan, current U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (D) is leading against her Democratic primary opponents to become the general election nominee in what will be a competitive contest in November.

While not an open-seat contest, Tammy Murphy (D-NJ) is also waging a competitive campaign for New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seat amidst the indictment of current Senator Bob Menendez (D).

Black women are competing to maintain or increase representation in the U.S. Senate. To date, just 3 (3D) Black women have ever served in the U.S. Senate, including current U.S. Senator LaPhonza Butler (D-CA). After being appointed to fill a vacancy, Butler is not running for a full term, leaving the potential for the Senate to return to having no Black women members. However, as noted above, U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt-Rochester (D) is strongly favored to win in Delaware, which would mean that at least one Black woman in the upper chamber in 2025. Black women are also waging U.S. Senate campaigns in at least six other states. 

Finally, Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) are among those incumbents in the most competitive 2024 Senate contests. 


Current women statewide executive officeholders are seeking their party’s nomination for governor in open-seat general election elections. 

  • In Delaware, current Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D) is in a competitive primary contest to become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in a contest favoring Democrats in November. 
  • In Indiana, current Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch (R) is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination for a general election contest that favors Republicans; current Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick (D) is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. 

U.S. House

There are many non-incumbent women candidates running in competitive and/or open-seat U.S. House candidates across the country in 2024. The list below is just a sampling of some contests where non-incumbent women are among those especially well-situated for possible success.

  • AZ-03: Former State Senator Raquel Terán (D) and Phoenix Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari (D) are top contenders for the Democratic nomination in this open-seat contest favoring Democrats. If successful, Terán would be the first Latina to represent Arizona in Congress. Ansari would be the first Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) woman to serve in Arizona’s congressional delegation. To date, all congresswomen from Arizona have been white. 
  • CA-29: Assemblywoman Luz Maria Rivas (D) and Angelica Duenas (D) are the only Democratic candidates running for the open seat in this Democratic district. Both identify as Latina. Rivas has been endorsed by the departing incumbent as well as BOLD PAC, both factors in her favor in and beyond the top-two primary election. 
  • CA-47: Joanna Weiss, a Democratic organizer, has been cited as among the top two Democrats seeking to fill an open seat created by U.S. Representative Katie Porter’s (D) bid for the Senate. This is expected to be a competitive contest through November. 
  • DE-At-Large: Current State Treasurer Colleen Davis (D) and State Senator Sarah McBride (D) are among the Democratic candidates seeking to fill the likely Democratic open seat created by U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester’s (D) likely ascension to the Senate. If successful, McBride would become the first openly trans person to serve in Congress.  
  • MN-03: State Senator Kelly Morrison (D) is one of two Democratic candidates vying to replace U.S. Representative Dean Phillips (D) in this district favoring Democrats. 
  • ND-At-Large: Current Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak (R) is one of multiple candidates seeking the Republican nomination in this strongly Republican district. If successful, Fedorchak would be the first Republican woman to represent North Dakota in Congress and the first woman (of any party) to serve in the U.S. House from North Dakota. 
  • OR-03: At least two Democratic women candidates are running in this Democrat-favored open seat contest. Among them are State Representative Maxine Dexter (D) and former County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, the sister of U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). If successful, Jayapal would be the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress from Oregon. She would also be part of just the second set of sisters to serve concurrently in Congress. U.S. Representatives Linda (D) and Loretta Sánchez (D) served together in the California congressional delegation from 2003 to 2017. 
  • TX-32: Ahead of the March 5 primary, State Representative Julie Johnson (D) has been noted as among the leading contenders in a crowded Democratic primary in this Democratic district.
  • VA-10: At least 6 (4D, 2R) women are running to replace retiring U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (D) in this competitive district currently favoring Democrats. Among the very crowded candidate pool are State Senator Jennifer Boysko (D), former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D), and State Delegate Michelle Maldonado (D). Both Democratic candidate Krystle Kaul (D) and Republican candidate Manga Amantamula (R) identify as South Asian and, if successful, would be the first Asian American woman to represent Virginia in Congress. 
  • WA-06: Current Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz (D) and State Senator Emily Randall (D) are currently the only Democratic candidates running in this open-seat contest that strongly favors Democrats. 

For the latest data on women candidates in Election 2024, see CAWP's Election Watch resources. And for more on gender in the presidential contest, see Presidential Watch 2024

Kelly Dittmar

Kelly Dittmar is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers–Camden and Director of Research and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. She is the co-author of A Seat at the Table: Congresswomen’s Perspectives on Why Their Representation Matters (Oxford University Press, 2018) (with Kira Sanbonmatsu and Susan J. Carroll) and author of Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns (Temple University Press, 2015).