June 30th Primaries Set Up All-Woman Contests in Colorado and Oklahoma in November


Congressional and statewide primaries were held on Tuesday in three states: Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah. Some contests in Utah remain too close to call, so this post will be updated as results are determined. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ Election Watch page.

Among the most notable results for women:

  • Lauren Boebert (R) defeated five-term incumbent Representative Scott Tipton (R) in the Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd congressional district. She is the second woman candidate to defeat an incumbent in the 2020 cycle (Marie Newman defeated incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district earlier this year). Boebert will face Democratic nominee Diane Mitsch Bush in an all-woman general election contest. 
  • Incumbent Representative Kendra Horn (D) won the Democratic nomination for re-election in November. She will face one of two women – Terry Neese or Stephanie Bice – who advanced to the Republican primary runoff election in Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district. This all but ensures that a woman will continue to hold the congressional seat in OK-05. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as a toss-up. Horn was elected for the first time in 2018, defeating incumbent Representative Steve Russell (R) in 2018 by 1.4 points.
  • Karina Brown is the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Utah and both of the candidates leading in the Republican primary for Governor of Utah have selected women as their running mates, all but ensuring that both major-party candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Utah in 2020 will be women.


Colorado

Oklahoma

Utah



Colorado

U.S. Senate

On Tuesday, no women candidates ran for major-party nominations in Colorado’s U.S. Senate contest. Incumbent Senator Cory Gardner (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary and two men (2D) competed for the Democratic primary nomination.

No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from Colorado.

U.S. House

There is one (1D) woman in Colorado’s seven-member U.S. House delegation.

Women are 4 (3D, 1R) of 14 (28.6%) major-party nominees selected for U.S. House in Colorado, including 3 of 7 (42.9%) Democrats and 1 of 7 (14.3%) Republicans. All women House candidates were successful in their primary bids in Colorado.

  • Incumbent Representative Diana DeGette (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary election in Colorado’s 1st congressional district. She is favored to win re-election this fall.
  • Lauren Boebert (R) defeated five-term incumbent Representative Scott Tipton (R) in the Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd congressional district. She is the second woman candidate to defeat an incumbent in the 2020 cycle (Marie Newman defeated incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district earlier this year).
    • Boebert will face Democratic nominee Diane Mitsch Bush in an all-woman general election contest. 
    • Mitsch Bush was the Democratic nominee in CO-03 in 2018, when she lost to Tipton by 7.9 points.
  • Jillian Freeland (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Doug Lamborn (R) in Colorado’s 5th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

All 4 (3D, 1R) women major-party nominees for the U.S. House from Colorado are white. No woman of color has ever represented Colorado in Congress.

 

Oklahoma

U.S. Senate

Abby Broyles won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Senator Jim Inhofe (R) in November. If successful in November, Broyles would be the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Oklahoma. Cook Political Report currently rates this race as “Solid Republican.”

U.S. House

Currently, one woman – Representative Kendra Horn (D) – serves in Oklahoma’s five-member delegation to the U.S. House (20%).

Women are 4 (4D) of 9 (44.4%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in Oklahoma, including 4 of 5 (80%) Democrats and 0 of 4 (0%) Republicans. Another 2 (2R) women advanced to the Republican primary runoff election in Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district. 3 (3R) women candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Incumbent Representative Kendra Horn (D) won the Democratic nomination for re-election in November. She will face one of two women – Terry Neese or Stephanie Bice – who advanced to the Republican primary runoff election in Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district. This all but ensures that a woman will continue to hold the congressional seat in OK-05. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as a toss-up. Horn was elected for the first time in 2018, defeating incumbent Representative Steve Russell (R) in 2018 by 1.4 points.
  • 3(3D) women will run as challengers to incumbents in November. All are running in general election contests that strongly favor their opponents.
    • Danyell Lanier (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Markwayne Mullin (R) in Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report. If elected, Lanier – who identifies as Black and Native American – would be the first woman of color to represent Oklahoma in the U.S. Congress.
    • Zoe Midyett (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Frank Lucas (R) in Oklahoma’s 3rd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Mary Brannon (D) won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Representative Tom Cole in Oklahoma’s 4th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women currently hold 4 (4R) of 11 statewide elected executive offices in Oklahoma (36.4%). Just one of those offices is up for election this year: corporation commissioner. There are three corporation commissioners elected statewide in Oklahoma. Among them, there is currently one woman – Dana Murphy (R) – who also serves as Chair of the commission. She is not up for re-election this year.

There were no women candidates in the primary contests for corporation commissioner this year.

 

Utah

U.S. House

There are currently no women in Utah’s four-member congressional delegation.

As of Wednesday morning, women are 0 of 6 (0%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in Utah, including 0 of 3 (0%) Democrats and 0 of 3 (0%) Republicans. 2 (1D, 1R) women candidates are in races still too close to call in Utah’s 1st congressional district primaries. 6 (6R) women House candidates lost their primary bids for the U.S. House at the convention stage and another (1R) woman was defeated in her party’s primary election.

  • The only open-seat U.S. House contest in Utah this year is in the 1st congressional district, where both primaries remain too close to call. Men are currently leading in both contests. Cook Political Report currently rates this seat as “Solid Republican.”

Statewide Elected Executive Office

There are currently no women holding any of Utah’s five statewide elected executive offices, including governor and lieutenant governor. All five offices are up for election in 2020.

This year, women are 1 of 5 (20%) major-party nominees for statewide elected executive offices already selected in Utah, including 1 of 3 (33.3%) Democrats and 0 of 2 (0%) Republicans. 1 (1R) woman candidate was unsuccessful in her primary bid for statewide elected executive office at the convention stage.

  • Aimee Winder Newton ran in the Republican Party convention for the gubernatorial nomination, but did not advance to the primary election. No woman will be a major-party nominee for Governor of Utah this year.
    • One woman has served as Governor of Utah. Olene Walker was appointed in 2003 and served until January 2005.
  • Karina Brown is the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, as her and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Peterson won their party’s nomination outright at the convention. No Democratic woman has served as Lieutenant Governor of Utah.
  • Both of the candidates leading in the Republican primary for Governor of Utah have selected women as their running mates, all but ensuring that both major-party candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Utah in 2020 will be women. 
  • No women ran as major-party candidates for attorney general, state auditor, or state treasurer in 2020.
    • No woman has ever served as state auditor or state treasurer in Utah.
    • Just 1 (1D) woman has served as Utah’s attorney general: Jan Graham (1993-2001).

Early Results for Women from June 23rd Primary Elections


Congressional and statewide primaries were held on Tuesday in three states: Kentucky, New York, and Virginia. Runoff congressional elections were also held in North Carolina and Mississippi. Due to the reliance on mail-in voting, many races remain too close to call, so this post will be updated as results are determined. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ Election Watch page.


Among the most notable results for women thus far:

  • Two of three of Virginia’s women representatives to the U.S. House – Representatives Elaine Luria (D) and Abigail Spanberger (D) – will run in competitive contests in November to defend the seats they first won in 2018. The third incumbent – Representative Jennifer Wexton (D) – will be challenged by another woman – Aliscia Andrews (R) – in a general election contest currently favoring Wexton.
  • While at least one woman will be a U.S. House nominee in Kentucky this year, no women are favored to win in November. Kentucky has not had a woman serve in the U.S. House since 2007. Amy McGrath (D) will challenge incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R) in November; she would be the first woman in the U.S. Senate from Kentucky. 
  • Lynda Bennett (R), who was endorsed by President Trump and former Representative Mark Meadows, was defeated in the Republican primary runoff in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district. This would have been a likely pick-up for Republican women.
  • 13 (7D, 6R) women have already secured major-party nominations in New York’s U.S. House races, including 5 (4D, 1R) of the 7 (6D, 1R) incumbent women representatives running for re-election this year (Representative Nita Lowey is not running for re-election). There will be at least one all-woman contest in New York’s congressional elections this fall, a rematch from 2018 between Representative Elise Stefanik (R) and Tedra Cobb (D) in New York’s 21st congressional district. Former Representative Claudia Tenney (R) will also run to reclaim her seat in New York’s 22nd congressional district.

Kentucky

New York

Virginia

North Carolina

 

Kentucky

U.S. Senate

Amy McGrath (D) won in the Democratic nomination to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) this November. This U.S. Senate contest is currently rated as "Lean Republican" by Cook Political Report. No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from Kentucky.

McGrath (D) was the Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s 6th congressional district in 2018. She lost by 3.2 points to incumbent Representative Andy Barr (R).

U.S. House

There are no women in Kentucky’s six-member U.S. House delegation. No woman has served in the U.S. House from Kentucky since 2007. 

As of June 30th, women are 0 of 10 (0%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in Kentucky, including 0 of 5 (0%) Democrats and 0 of 5 (0%) Republicans. 3 (2D, 1R) women candidates are in races still too close to call in two district primaries, including 2 (2D) women who are the only candidates for the Democratic nomination in Kentucky’s 4th congressional district, ensuring that there will be at least one woman U.S. House nominee from Kentucky this year. She will challenge incumbent Representative Thomas Massie (R) in a contest currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report. Thus far, 1 (1R) woman House candidate was unsuccessful in her primary bid for the U.S. House.

 

New York

U.S. House

Women are currently 8 (7D, 1R) of 27 members of the New York delegation to the U.S. House (29.6%).

As of June 30th, women are 13 (7D, 6R) of 35 (37.1%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in New York, including 7 of 15 (46.7%) Democrats and 6 of 20 (30%) Republicans. 22 (17D, 5R) women candidates are in races still too close to call in 12 party primaries in 11 congressional districts. Thus far, 5 (4D, 1R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • 7 (6D, 1R) of 8 incumbent women House members from New York are running for re-election. Representative Nita Lowey (D) is not running for re-election. She has served in the U.S. House since 1989.
    • 2 (1D, 1R) incumbent women were unopposed in the primary: Kathleen Rice (D, NY-04) and Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21). Stefanik will be challenged in November by Democratic nominee Tedra Cobb (D) in an all-woman contest.
    • 3 (3D) more incumbent women have won their primaries: Grace Meng (D, NY-06), Nydia Velazquez (D, NY-07), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY-14).
    • 2 (2D) incumbent women – Yvette Clarke (D, NY-09) and Carolyn Maloney (D, NY-12) – remain in contests that are too close to call.
  • No women have been nominated yet in open U.S. House seats in New York, but 2 (2D) women are the only candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd congressional district, currently held by Representative Peter King (R). King is not running for re-election. This race is currently rated as “Lean Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • 12 (10D, 2R) women in total remain in open-seat contests that are too close to call.
  • At least 8 (3D, 5R) women will run as challengers to incumbents in November. 8 (5D, 3R) women challengers remain in contests that are too close to call.
    • Former Representative Claudia Tenney (R), who served one term in the U.S. House from 2017-2019, will run to reclaim her seat in New York’s 22nd congressional district. Tenney lost to current Representative Anthony Brindisi (D) by 1.8 points in 2018. This race is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
    • Dana Balter will challenge incumbent Representative John Katko (R) New York's 24th congressional district. Balter lost to Katko in 2018 by 5.2 points. This race is currently rated as “Likely Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • 6 (2D, 4D) women candidates were unopposed in the primary and are challenging incumbents in general election contests that favor their opponents.
      • Cathy Bernstein (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative Jerry Nadler (D) in New York’s 10th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
      • Lovelynn Gwinn (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative Adriano Espaillat (D) in New York’s 13th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
      • Chele Farley (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D) in New York’s 18th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Likely Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
      • Elizabeth Joy (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative Paul Tonko (D) in New York’s 20th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
      • Tedra Cobb (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Elise Stefanik (R) in New York’s 21st congressional district. She was the Democratic nominee in 2018 and lost to Stefanik by 13.7 points. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
      • Tracy Mitrano (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Tom Reed (R) in New York’s 23rd congressional district. She was the Democratic nominee in 2018 and lost to Reed by 8.4 points. This race is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

Of the 13 (7D, 6R) women who are already selected as major-party nominees for the U.S. House from New York, 4 (3D, 1R) are women of color, including 2 (2D) Latinas and 2 (1D, 1R) Asian American women.

 

Virginia

U.S. Senate

On Tuesday, three candidates ran in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D) in November. Alissa Baldwin – the only woman to run for the U.S. Senate in Virginia this year – was unsuccessful in her bid for the Republican nomination. No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from Virginia.

U.S. House

Currently, women are 3 (3D) of 11 members of the Virginia delegation to the U.S. House (27.3%).

Women are 5 (3D, 2R) of 18 (27.8%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in Virginia, including 3 of 9 (33.3%) Democrats and 2 of 9 (22.2%) Republicans. 4 (4D) women candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House. Because Virginia uses mixed methods of party nomination, 2 (2R) nominees have yet to be selected and will be chosen in party conventions.

  • All (3D) incumbent women, who are each in their first terms in Congress, were unopposed in bids for their party’s nomination.
    • 2 (2D) incumbent women – Representatives Elaine Luria (VA-02) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07) – are in contests currently deemed toss-ups by Cook Political Report.
    • Representative Jennifer Wexton (D) will be challenged by Republican nominee Aliscia Andrews in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. This all-woman contest is currently rated “Likely Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
  • 2 (2R) women will run as challengers to incumbents in November. Both were selected via party conventions.
    • Aliscia Andrews (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Jennifer Wexton (D) in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. This all-woman contest is currently rated “Likely Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
    • Manga Anantatmula will challenge incumbent Representative Gerry Connolly (D) in Virginia’s 11th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report. If elected, Anantatmula – who is Indian American – would be the first woman of color to represent Virginia in Congress.

 

North Carolina

One woman – Lynda Bennett – ran in the runoff Republican primary election in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district. Despite endorsements from former Representative Mark Meadows (R), who held the seat until March 2020, and President Donald Trump, she was defeated by Madison Cawthorn.

With the runoff elections complete, women are 7 of 26 (26.9%) major-party nominees for the U.S. House in North Carolina, including 5 of 13 (38.5%) Democratic nominees and 2 of 13 (15.4%) Republican nominees.

More Republican women are running for office than ever, but how are they running?

 

A record number of Republican women are running for the U.S. House this year. More than 200 Republican women candidates have already filed, compared to the previous high of 133. And with many primary contests left to be decided, 48 women are Republican nominees for the U.S. House and another seven women are in run-off contests for Republican House nominations.

These numbers are notable on their own, but they do not alone tell the whole story of Republican women’s political candidacies in election 2020. The story of Republican women candidates in election 2020 is not only about if they run and win, but also about how they run and win.

In my book Navigating Gendered Terrain, I evaluate how men and women candidates engage gender on the campaign trail, in addition to asking those who make strategic decisions (candidates and campaign practitioners) about their perceptions of and approaches to gender dynamics in U.S. campaigns. My analysis – in line with other research – illuminates the importance of evaluating how candidates run for office, as well as challenging any singular notions of “running as a woman.” Partisanship is among the most important considerations in analyzing candidate presentation, priorities, and messaging, including the specific ways in which gender shapes how they make the case to voters.

It is too early to conduct a systemic analysis of how women are running in 2020, but a review of Republican women winners – and those best situated to win U.S. House seats in November – provides some insights into both commonalities and diversity in how Republican women are navigating gender and party in candidate presentation this year. As of this June 22nd, 53 Republican women House candidates have advanced either to a primary run-off or general election, including 4 incumbent Republican women House members. Of the 49 non-incumbent women winners, 16 are running in districts that either favor their party or are – at least at this point – deemed competitive in November. Those women are the focus of my analysis.

Meeting Masculine Expectations

The research on gender and campaign strategy has evidenced the dual demands that women candidates face to meet stereotypical expectations of both candidacy, which continue to align most often with men and masculinity, and their gender – which assume alignment with norms of femininity. Both Republican and Democratic women navigate these conflicting expectations, albeit with partisan differences also at play. For Republican women, the alignment of their party with notions of toughness and “law and order” might lead voters to perceive them as more likely than their liberal counterparts to meet these stereotypically masculine expectations.

But Republican women candidates this year are not relying on this party cue to assure voters that they are tough enough for the job. More than a third of the 16 Republican women evaluated here have presented themselves as “fighters,” especially “conservative fighters,” with even more emphasizing their resilience and toughness. State Senator Victoria Spartz, the Republican nominee in Indiana’s 5th congressional district, is described by a fellow senator in a May 2020 advertisement titled “Relentless” as “the Iron Lady of the Indiana State Senate,” adding, “She's not afraid to tackle tough issues.” Other women have used images demonstrating their physical strength as corollaries for their drive to be public leaders. For example, Genevieve Collins, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 32nd congressional district, launched her campaign with an ad titled “Fighter” in which she is described as “tough,” “driven,” and “relentless” while running on a treadmill, doing strength exercises, and sparring with boxing gloves. That symbolism was also used in an ad for Democratic Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS) in 2018 to communicate she would be a “fighter for progress.”

The biography for former Representative Karen Handel (R), who will again challenge Representative Lucy McBath (D) in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, begins, “Karen is called scrappy, determined, and resilient.” Lisa Scheller, the Republican nominee in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district, is shown cycling uphill in her introductory campaign video, narrating, “I’ve climbed a few hills,” and detailing the obstacles – including opioid addiction – that she has overcome in her life. In emphasizing resilience, women candidates can communicate toughness in ways that are less tied to masculinity and men.

But conservative candidates have also frequently used gun imagery to communicate both toughness and their commitment to Second Amendment rights. Of the 16 Republican women candidates analyzed for this piece, six are shown shooting or holding guns in their campaign materials and ten make explicit statements about their commitment to uphold the right to bear arms. In one ad, Marjorie Greene, who has recently advanced to the runoff as the highest vote-getter in the Republican primary in Georgia’s 14th congressional district, shoots a high-powered gun off of the back of a Humvee at targets that symbolize gun control, the green new deal, and socialism. In another web video, she touts that she is 100% pro-gun, explains that she carries a gun “every single day,” and touts her membership in The DC Project – an all-women’s gun rights group. Most recently, she posted a video message to Antifa in which she brandishes a loaded gun and warns, “Stay the hell out of Northwest Georgia.” Lynda Bennett, who has advanced to a runoff in North Carolina’s 11th congressional district, also posted a web video showing her engaged in target practice, and Yvette Herrell, the Republican nominee in a rematch in New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, describes the “God-given” right to bear arms in an ad where she is shown shooting at a gun range.

The symbolism of guns is both ideological and gendered, often used to convey conservative bona fides as well as toughness via a tool of brute force. Their centrality in conservative candidate presentation is not new and their use often reinforces traditional notions of masculinity as the credential by which candidacy should be won. We saw this most recently in ads from men like Governor Brian Kemp (R-GA) and women like Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) in the 2018 election. And even in the few examples in recent history where Democratic candidates were shown with guns in campaign materials, they did so to communicate stereotypical masculinity and/or question the masculine credentials of their opponent (e.g. see Alison Lundergan Grimes’ 2014 ad against Senator Mitch McConnell).

Highlighting Distinctly Gendered Experience

There is no universal way to run for office as a woman, and this year’s Republican women candidates illustrate the diversity with which women both navigate gender and define womanhood on the campaign trail. For example, Genevieve Collins describes shooting a gun as part of what it means to be a “Texas Woman,” challenging the idea that guns only denote masculinity. In an ad titled “Texas Woman,” she explains that being a Texas woman “means you know how to shoot, clean, and eat your kill one day, then throw on your dress and work a board room the next.” Collins is one of at least six Republican women candidates of the 16 analyzed here – including Yvette Herrell (NM), Marjorie Greene (GA), Lynda Bennett (NC), Renee Swann (SC), and Lisa Scheller (PA) – that touts her success as a businesswoman as key to her credentials for political office. In addition to emphasizing their business acumen and capacity for success, some of these women point more explicitly to being trailblazers for women in otherwise male-dominated fields – a role they would continue in a still-male-dominated U.S. Congress. 

Being a trailblazer is central to State Representative Nancy Mace’s image in her bid as the Republican nominee in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district. In both her biography and campaign videos, Mace reminds voters that she was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets in 1999. She authored a book about her experience in 2001 titled The Company of Men: A Woman at The Citadel, again reinforcing her ability to successfully navigate what has otherwise been a man’s world. Two other Republican women nominees from California – Michelle Steel and Young Kim – tout their own trailblazing along intersectional lines, both noting their successes as Korean-American Republican women in American politics.

In these examples, Republican women candidates disrupt stereotypical expectations that they – as women – are ill-suited for political office. In fact, they tout distinctly gendered experiences as trailblazing women to prove their capacity to both make it to and lead in the U.S. Congress. But women candidates who disrupt gender expectations have long risked some backlash from voters who demand that they meet both the stereotypically masculine demands of candidacy and stereotypically feminine expectations of their sex. Republican voters hold more traditional gender role expectations that might create particular hurdles for Republican women confronting this double bind. One Republican consultant explained to me, for example, that stay-at-home mothers are one of the most reliable Republican voting groups, and that they are often most skeptical of women’s ability to balance office-holding with family responsibilities; “If they [stay at home], the automatic question is ‘If this is my life experience, why isn’t it your life experience?’.” Therefore, Republican women candidates navigate uniquely gendered terrain whereby the accepted gender roles of some of their primary constituents might conflict with the professional roles they are seeking.

This – tied more broadly with ideological and religious beliefs about family values among conservatives – might help to explain both how and why the Republican women candidates I analyzed this year talk about being mothers. Eleven of the 16 Republican women candidates I analyzed have children, a fact all of them mention in some way in their campaign materials. But most go beyond mere mention of their children. For example, State Representative Ashley Hinson, the Republican nominee in Iowa’s 1st congressional district, leads with this campaign motto: “Proven Leader. Proud Mom.” Her website features photos of her with her two school-aged sons, whom she describes as motivation for her to “fight for a better community and stronger economy for all Iowa families.” Mary Miller, the Republican nominee in Illinois' 15th congressional district, has a campaign slogan of "Faith, Family, and Freedom" and introduces herself to voters as mother of seven children. Mayor Beth Van Duyne, Republican nominee in Texas’ 24th congressional district, uses three words to characterize herself to voters: Christian, conservative, and mother. She goes on to describe herself as “a single, working-mother” who wants her two children to “be able to grow up safe and proud of our country.” Likewise, Marjorie Greene presents herself as a conservative wife and mother and concludes her biography by noting, “Marjorie believes the best part of her life is being a mother and spending time with her family.” Finally, Renee Swann touts her accomplishments as a mother as among those that should be valued in her bid for office. Her campaign materials present her as a woman who has “raised four men to be great husbands, fathers, and servants of their communities.”

These various approaches toward integrating motherhood into Republican women’s cases for candidacy both assure voters that they have been successful in fulfilling a traditional gender role while simultaneously adding motherhood – and the skills and passion it brings – as another credential that should be valued in its translation into political officeholding. This shift from motherhood as a potential electoral hurdle to an electoral asset is something that has occurred over time and across party lines, with the most prominent and progressive examples to date coming from Democratic mothers who ran in 2018. The number of Republican women candidates running with – and celebrating – young children in 2020 might demonstrate that shift is not distinct to Democrats, even if the ways in which this role is discussed might differ across party lines.

Proving Conservative Bona Fides

Previous research demonstrates how gender cues of expected liberalism might hurt Republican women running for office. For women running in Republican primaries, who have been shown to have a harder time making through to nomination, this can put more pressure on them than on their male opponents to prove their conservative bona fides. The Republican women running in 2020 are no exception. In addition to touting their support for the Second Amendment, most Republican women candidates I analyzed made clear that they were also pro-life, pro-religion, and pro-Trump.

Multiple Republican women have emphasized their Christian values as informing their political priorities. Kathaleen Wall, who advanced to the runoff election for the Republican nomination in Texas’ 22nd congressional district, explains in a campaign advertisement, “I’m running for Congress to continue my life’s mission of serving God.” Yvette Herrell’s campaign home page leads with “Pro-God,” followed by “Pro-Life, Pro-Gun, Pro-Business” and “Pro-Energy.” In her introductory advertisement, she says, “I'm a Christian conservative and I'm a Trump conservative,” quickly affirming some key credentials desired by many Republican primary voters this year.

Vocal and stated support for President Donald Trump is evident among most of the Republican women who have advanced in primary contests thus far, demonstrating the importance for candidates – men and women alike – to align with the de facto head of party. Some align especially strongly with President Trump, such as Lynda Bennett, whose first advertisement was titled “Always Trumper.” Likewise, Yvette Herrell emphasizes that she has supported Donald Trump “from day one” and will continue to support his agenda as a member of Congress. Among the “17 Things I Wholeheartedly Believe” on Renee Swann’s campaign website is this: "President Trump is doing a phenomenal job for the American people.”

Only two of the Republican women candidates who have advanced thus far in the 2020 cycle do not have any obvious references to their support for President Trump in their campaign materials: Michelle Steel and Young Kim, both running in competitive contests in California. In fact, the only mentions of Donald Trump on Kim’s Twitter account are three tweets deriding him for his comments in the Access Hollywood tape released in 2016, his questioning of the intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and – just this weekend – his use of racist language is characterizing the coronavirus. Both Steel and Kim’s congressional contests are currently rated as “Lean Democratic” by Cook Political Report, which might help to explain their distancing from President Trump.

Finally, proving conservative bona fides in the 2020 election – for men and women alike – means standing against socialism. Many Republican women candidates are explicit in their anti-socialist rhetoric in their campaign materials, with some like Marjorie Greene making “Save America. Stop Socialism” the primary tagline of her campaign. State Senator Victoria Spartz has doubled down on her anti-socialist credentials by talking about her experience growing up in “socialist-controlled Ukraine” where “she experienced firsthand the dark side of socialism.” Common in the attacks on Democrats’ socialism are direct attacks on individual Democrats – most notably freshman Democratic women of color Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Of the 16 Republican women’s campaigns I analyzed, nine used images of and/or references to these women to describe what they stood against (another Republican woman candidate who lost her primary went so far as to suggest she would create a “conservative squad” of her own to oppose these progressive women in Congress). Renee Swann calls them “socialists,” “extremists,” and “Trump-haters” in a February campaign ad and Karen Handel interestingly focuses on these women – instead of the freshman Democratic woman she is running against – as symbols of what is wrong in Washington, D.C. 

The gendered and racialized dynamics at play in these attacks are important to note. Republican candidates’ – men and women alike – explicit targeting of these freshman women of color as “extreme” or “threats” is a tactic not only effective due to their ideological positions; as women representing communities – racial and ethnic, religious (Tlaib and Omar are the first Muslim women in Congress), and even generational – that have been marginalized from power and characterized as at the least unfit and at the worst dangerous, they are being used as symbols of the most direct challenge to the white, male status quo. An added layer of nuance is evident when Republican women evoke these images and messages. In doing so – whether intentionally or not – they create an explicit contrast between groups of women, characterizing themselves as the right kind of women for political leadership and the “squad” as the wrong kind of women to serve in Congress.

Trends to Watch

This review of a selection of Republican women candidates in 2020 – those who have already advanced in U.S. House contests and are among the most competitive in November – offers some early insights into how Republican women are running this year. They are emphasizing toughness and resilience, business and conservative bona fides, and – for most – their alignment with and support for President Trump. Consistent with the Republican Party’s derision of “identity politics,” they are less likely than Democratic women were in 2018 to emphasize the need for greater representation of women in office as part of their case for candidacy, but they do tout gender difference by characterizing themselves as trailblazers and mothers.

In addition to crunching the numbers and tracking the horse race, analyzing the influence of gender in both campaign strategy and candidate evaluation is necessary to tell the full story of election 2020. This is just a start. 

Make America Caring Again: What the Majority of Women Voters Want During the COVID Crisis


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the health and safety of Americans as well as on the United States’ economy. Questions and concerns have arisen about the severe precipitating effects of this national crisis because of a lack of access to health insurance among many Americans, the increasing unemployment rates, and the growing demands on food banks. The current circumstances create a unique political context in which social welfare issues may preoccupy the minds of voters this November. These issues are also at the heart of the gender gap in presidential vote choice, where women have been more likely than men to vote for Democratic candidates since 1980. While women voters are far from a monolithic group, the greater support among women than men for social welfare programs including support for the government’s role in providing health and economic security and their stronger belief than men in promoting the well-being of all will likely continue to distinguish support by gender between this year’s presidential contenders.

One hundred years after women attained suffrage, a Democratic candidate for the presidency cannot win the White House without strong support from women and minority voters. Political science research, including my own examining national public opinion via American National Election Studies data from 1980 to 2016, provides insight into what issues have been most important to women over the span of nearly three decades and – relatedly – which policy areas explain the gender gap in presidential vote choice. The leading factor explaining the gender gap in vote choice over this period of time is attitudes about social welfare programs. Using mediational analyses to understand what issues explain gender differences in vote choice, I find that social welfare attitudes explain 60.95% of the gender gap. This compares to other issues such as defense spending attitudes which mediate 22.36% of the gap, support for regulations to protect the environment which mediates 20.93% of the gap, and support for laws that protect gay men and lesbians from discrimination which mediates 25.47% of the gap. These are just a few of the other areas of public opinion analyzed in the book. It is important to note that each area was analyzed separately meaning that the percentages do not add to 100%.  It is likely that in a particular election year, another issue area, not social welfare issues, may be the best explanation for the gender gap, but my analysis looked at the full time period as a whole. Policy positions on social welfare issues are also the leading factor explaining the gender gap in party identification over the same time period. More specifically, women have been consistently more likely than men to support a greater role of government in ensuring healthcare access and providing financial and food assistance, as well place a distinct value on social equality and the well-being of all in society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront the issue of healthcare access, which has been a prominent policy area of past presidential agendas including Clinton and Obama. According to my research, women are more likely than men to support a greater role for government in the provision of health insurance to American citizens. This gender gap persists between men and women of different age cohorts, different levels of education, and different income categories. However, gender differences are not consistent across racial and ethnic groups; while White women favor higher levels of government involvement in providing health insurance compared to white men, Black women and Black men do not differ in their support for a robust governmental role in providing health insurance. To capitalize on this support, Democratic presidential nominee Biden should employ his association with the Affordable Care Act and address his commitment to both ensuring and expanding healthcare access.

Unemployment rates, demands on food banks, and the need for income assistance have increased during the pandemic. My research suggests there are likely considerable gender differences in support for policies that will provide relief to Americans struggling financially right now. Simply put, women are more likely to want the government to provide a social safety net for those in need. On several separate policy questions, there are statistically significant gender gaps on support for government spending on aid to the poor, government spending on food stamps, government spending on welfare, government provision of services, and government providing for a basic standard of living. For all of these social welfare issues, women are more likely than men to want more government spending, more government services, and for the government to ensure a basic standard of living. These gender differences are significant within different demographic categories including race, education level, age cohorts, and income level.

Many scholars have pointed out the significant role of Black and Latina women’s strong identification with the Democratic Party as fueling the gender gaps in party identification and presidential vote choice; as Wendy Smooth writes, “African-American women and Latinas heavily account for the consistent claim that women are more supportive of Democratic candidates.” When analyzing the vote choice of men and women from 1980 to 2016, only 38% of White women voted for the Democratic presidential candidate compared to 99% of Black women. Younger women are more likely than older women to vote Democratic in presidential elections; 67% of women born after the boomer generation compared to 55% of boomer women voted Democratic. Seventy-eight percent of women with a household income below the national median compared to 50% of women with a household income above the national median voted for the Democratic presidential candidate during this time period. Though women were more likely than men to vote Democratic within all of these subgroups – thus the gender gap – the differences across groups of women are key to understanding women’s policy preferences and voting behavior, and to informing campaign strategy.

This diversity of opinion among women is also reflected in my data. For example, on a scale ranging from 1 to 7 of support for social welfare programs including the above issues as well as government spending on public schools and social security, with a higher score indicating greater support, White women have a mean score of 2.96 compared to Black women’s mean of 3.54. Slightly smaller differences emerge among women by education and income; women with a college degree have a mean score of 2.94 compared to 3.12 among women without a college degree, and women with lower incomes have a mean score of 3.25 compared to a mean score of 2.99 among women with higher incomes.

Finally, my analysis shows that women are more likely than men to value social equality and the well-being of all in society; this is another substantial explanation for the presidential gap in vote choice. This is true across various demographic subgroups. Specifically, White women are more likely than White men, women of all age cohorts are more likely than men of the same age cohort, women with different levels of education are more likely than men of the same education level, and women with different levels of income are more likely than men of the same income level to believe in social equality and prefer a society that promotes the well-being of all its members. Black women and Black men, however, do not differ on this belief. As the COVID-19 crisis has threatened the well-being of citizens across the country, Biden should stress his commitment to social equality and to promoting the well-being of all Americans as a particularly important appeal to the values of many women, especially those who make up the Democratic base. 

COVID-19 has had devastating consequences for Americans, highlighting the importance of affordable healthcare access, government assistance for the unemployed, and government aid to the needy. Past surveys demonstrate that the majority of women support government solutions to these types of national problems. And the gender gap in presidential vote choice in past elections can be largely explained by the majority of women wanting a president who promises an equal society that promotes the well-being of all and who will provide a more generous social safety net. On Election Day 2020, these policy positions are likely to still be on the minds of the electorate influencing how men and women vote. To secure and potentially expand the Democratic base, Biden should emphasize how his administration will fight to provide government support during these difficult times. President Trump, however, will have far less incentive to back this approach that is largely unpopular among his base, including conservative women. If President Trump and his team want to expand their support among women beyond their base, these data suggest his administration’s past cuts to social welfare spending and reluctance to provide government aid to states, localities, and individuals to confront the COVID-19 crisis will hurt more than help.

Women Candidates Have Successes in June 9th Primaries, but Many Face Difficult General Election Prospects

 

Congressional and statewide primaries were held on Tuesday in five states: Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ Election Watch page.


Among the most notable results for women:

  • While women won nominations in many congressional and statewide executive primaries on Tuesday, few non-incumbent women candidates will be competitive in November. Exceptions include:
    • Former Representative Karen Handel (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Lucy McBath (D) in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. McBath defeated Handel in 2018 by 1 point (just over 3,000 votes). This all-woman contest is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
    • State Representative Nancy Mace (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Joe Cunningham (D) in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, which is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report (Cunningham flipped the U.S. House seat from Republican to Democrat in 2018). If Mace is elected in November, she will be the first Republican woman in Congress from South Carolina as well as the first woman since 1993 to represent South Carolina in Congress.
  • Women are also in some key runoff contests to watch in Georgia.
    • Carolyn Bourdeaux and Brenda Lopez Romero will compete in an August runoff for the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 7th congressional district, an open-seat contest. In 2018, Bourdeaux lost to incumbent Representative Rob Woodall (R) by just 300 votes. This general election contest is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
    • Marjorie Greene will compete in the August runoff for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 14th congressional district, another open-seat contest. This general election contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
  • Dr. Shelley Lenz (D) became the first woman to win a gubernatorial nomination in 2020. She was unopposed in the Democratic primary for governor of North Dakota. Lenz will challenge incumbent Governor Doug Burgum (R), who is strongly favored to win re-election this fall.

Georgia

Nevada

North Dakota

South Carolina

West Virginia



Georgia

U.S. Senate

Both U.S. Senate seats in Georgia are up for election this year. In addition to the regularly-scheduled re-election contest for incumbent Senator David Perdue (R), incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) – who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Brian Kemp (R) in late 2019 (and sworn in January 2020) – is running in a special U.S. Senate election to complete former Senator Johnny Isakson’s (R) term (through 2022). Georgia’s special election for the U.S. Senate will not happen until November 3, 2020, when all candidates – Republicans and Democrats – will compete in a jungle primary.

On Tuesday, candidates ran in the Democratic primary to challenge Senator David Perdue (R), who was unopposed in the Republican primary, this November. 4 (4D) women were defeated in the Democratic primary.

No Democratic woman has served in the U.S. Senate from Georgia since 1922, when Rebecca Latimer Felton was appointed to fill a vacancy and served for one day in 1922. She was the first woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate.

U.S. House

Women are currently 1 (1D) of 14 members of the Georgia delegation to the U.S. House (7.1%).

Women are 8 (4D, 4R) of 22 (36.4%) major-party nominees already selected for U.S. House in Georgia, including 4 of 10 (40%) Democrats and 4 of 12 (33.3%) Republicans. Another 7 (6D, 1R) women have advanced to runoff elections on August 11, 2020 in 5 congressional primaries. 13 (5D, 8R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Incumbent Representative Lucy McBath (D) was unopposed in her primary and will run for re-election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district. She will be challenged by former Representative Karen Handel (R), who held the seat from 2017-2018 (she won a special election in 2017) and was defeated by McBath in 2018 by 1 point (just over 3,000 votes). This race is considered a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
  • 7 (3D, 4R) women, including Handel, will run as challengers to incumbents in November. All but Handel (R) are running in general election contests that strongly favor their opponents.
    • Johsie Cruz (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative Hank Johnson (D) in Georgia’s 4th congressional district. This contest is rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
    • Angela Stanton-King (R) was unopposed in the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Representative John Lewis (D) in Georgia’s 5th congressional district. This contest is rated as “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report.
    • Tabitha Johnson-Green won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Representative Jody Hice (R) in Georgia’s 10th congressional district. This is a re-match of the 2018 election, where Johnson-Green lost to Hice by 26 points. This contest is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Dana Barrett (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Barry Loudermilk (R) in Georgia’s 11th congressional district. This contest is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Liz Johnson (D) won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Representative Rick Allen (R) in Georgia’s 12th congressional district. This contest is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Becky Hites (R) won the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Representative David Scott (D) in Georgia’s 13th congressional district. This contest is rated as “Solid Democrat” by Cook Political Report.
  • 7 (6D, 1R) women have advanced to runoff elections on August 11, 2020 in 5 congressional primaries, including 3 open-seat contests.
    • Carolyn Bourdeaux and Brenda Lopez Romero will compete in an August runoff for the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 7th congressional district, an open-seat contest. In 2018, Bourdeaux lost to incumbent Representative Rob Woodall (R) by just 300 votes. This general election contest is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
    • Marjorie Greene will compete in the August runoff for the Republican nomination in Georgia’s 14th congressional district, another open-seat contest. This general election contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Brooke Siskin will compete in an August runoff for the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 9th congressional district, another open-seat contest. This general election contest is currently rated as "Solid Republican" by Cook Political Report.
    • Lisa Ring and Joyce Griggs will compete in an August runoff for the Democratic nomination in Georgia's 1st congressional district. The winner will challenge incumbent Representative Buddy Carter (R) in a contest currently rated as "Solid Republican" by Cook Political Report.
    • Keisha Waites will compete in an August runoff for the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 13th congressional district. She is a primary challenger to incumbent Representative David Scott (D) in a district that strongly favors the Democratic nominee in November.

Of the 8 (4D, 4R) women who are already selected as major-party nominees for the U.S. House from Georgia, 5 (3D, 2R) are women of color, including 4 (3D, 1R) Black women – incumbent Representative Lucy McBath (D, GA-06), Tabitha Johnson-Green (D, GA-10), Liz Johnson (D, GA-12), and Angela Stanton-King (R, GA-05) – and 1 (1R) Latina – Johsie Cruz (R, GA-04). No Latina has ever represented Georgia in Congress. Georgia has previously sent 3 (3D) Black women to Congress: current incumbent Lucy McBath (D, 2019-Present), Denise Majette (D, 2003-2005), and Cynthia McKinney (D, 1993-2003; 2005-2007).



Nevada

U.S. House

Women are currently 2 (2D) of 4 members of the Nevada delegation to the U.S. House (50%).

Women are 4 (3D, 1R) of 8 (50%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Nevada, including 3 of 4 (75%) Democrats and 1 of 4 (25%) Republicans. 9 (3D, 6R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Both incumbent women representatives – Representatives Susie Lee (D) and Dina Titus (D) – won primary nominations for re-election this fall.
    • Cook Political Report currently rates Representative Titus’ race in the 1st congressional district as “Solid Democratic.”
    • Cook Political Report currently rates Representative Lee’s race in the 3rd congressional district as “Lean Democratic.” In 2018, Lee won her U.S. House seat for the first time by 9 points.
  • Patricia Ackerman won the Democratic primary in Nevada's 2nd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as "Solid Republican" by Cook Political Report. 
  • Joyce Bentley won the Republican primary in Nevada's 1st congressional district to challenge incumbent Representative Dina Titus (D) in an all-woman contest where Titus is strongly favored to win re-election. Bentley identifies as Asian American and White. 



North Dakota

There were only 3 (2D, 1NP) women on the primary ballots for North Dakota’s congressional and statewide executive elections in 2020.

U.S. House

No women ran for North Dakota’s at-large U.S. House district in 2020. The seat, currently held by Representative Kelly Armstrong (R), is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report. No woman has ever represented North Dakota in the U.S. House.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women currently hold 3 (2R, 1NP) of 13 statewide elected executive offices in North Dakota (23.1%). Seven of those offices are up for election this year: governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, state auditor, commissioner of insurance, public service commissioner, and superintendent of public instruction. While there are 3 public service commissioners who are elected statewide, just one of those seats is up for election in 2020.

Women are 3 (2D, 1NP) of 14 (21.4%) major-party and non-partisan nominees for statewide executive offices in North Dakota, including 2 of 6 (33.3%) Democrats, 1 of 2 (50%) non-partisan nominees, 0 of 6 (0%) Republicans. No women candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for statewide executive offices.

  • Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler (NP) was the leading vote-getter in the non-partisan primary for her office; she will proceed to the general election.
  • Dr. Shelley Lenz (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary for Governor of North Dakota. Lenz will challenge Incumbent Governor Doug Burgum (R), who is strongly favored to win re-election this fall.
  • Travisia Martin (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread (R). No woman has ever been elected as Insurance Commissioner of North Dakota. If elected, Martin – who is Black – would also be the first woman of color elected statewide in North Dakota. 



South Carolina

U.S. Senate

No women ran for the U.S. Senate in South Carolina this year to challenge incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham (R). No woman has served in the U.S. Senate from South Carolina.

U.S. House

There are no women currently serving in South Carolina’s 7-member delegation to the U.S. House.

Women are 4 (3D, 1R) of 14 (28.6%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in South Carolina, including 3 of 7 (42.9%) Democrats and 1 of 7 (14.3%) Republicans. 1 (1R) woman House candidate was unsuccessful in her primary bid for the U.S. House. All 4 (3D, 1R) women U.S. House nominees from South Carolina will run as challengers to incumbents in November.

  • State Representative Nancy Mace (R) won the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, which is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report. She will challenge incumbent Representative Joe Cunningham (D), who flipped the U.S. House seat from Republican to Democrat in 2018. If elected in November, Mace will be the first Republican woman in Congress from South Carolina as well as the first woman since 1993 to represent South Carolina in Congress.
  • 3 (3D) women will run as challengers to incumbents in districts that strongly favor their opponents.
    • Adair Burroughs (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Joe Wilson (R) in South Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Kim Nelson (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Bill Timmons (R) in South Carolina’s 4th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Melissa Watson (D) won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Representative Tom Rice (R) in South Carolina’s 7th congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

Of the 4 (3D, 1R) women who are major-party nominees for the U.S. House from South Carolina, only Melissa Watson (D) – who is Black – is a woman of color. If elected, Watson would be the first woman of color to represent South Carolina in the U.S. Congress.



West Virginia

U.S. Senate

Incumbent Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R) is the only woman who has served in the U.S. Senate from West Virginia. She has served since 2015 and is up for re-election this year.

Capito (R) won the Republican nomination and is strongly favored to keep her seat in November. She will be challenged by Paula Jean Swearengin (D) in an all-woman contest. Swearengin also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018, challenging Senator Joe Manchin (D) in the Democratic primary; she lost by 40 points.

Capito previously served in the U.S. House from 2001 to 2015.

U.S. House

Women are currently 1 (1R) of 3 members of the West Virginia delegation to the U.S. House (33.3%).

As of Wednesday morning, women are 3 (2D, 1R) of 5 (60%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in West Virginia, including 2 of 2 (100%) Democrats and 1 of 3 (33.3%) Republicans. 1 (1D) woman remains in the Democratic primary in West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district, which is too close to call.

  • Incumbent Representative Carol Miller (R) is running for re-election. She was the only Republican woman running for the U.S. House from West Virginia this year. Miller is strongly favored to win re-election; West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district seat is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report. 
  • 2 (2D) women will run as challengers to incumbents in districts that strongly favor their opponents.
    • Natalie Cline (D) won the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative David McKinley (R) in West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.
    • Cathy Kunkel (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Representative Alex Mooney (R) in West Virginia’s 2nd congressional district. This contest is currently rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook Political Report.

All women congressional nominees in West Virginia are White. West Virginia has never sent a woman of color to Congress.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women currently hold 0 of 6 statewide elected executive offices in West Virginia. Each of those offices are up for election this year: governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, state auditor, and commissioner of agriculture.

Women are 2 (2D) of 12 (16.7%) major-party nominees for statewide executive offices in West Virginia, including 2 of 6 (33.3%) Democrats and 0 of 6 (0%) Republicans. This includes the Democratic primary nomination for attorney general, which remains too close to call, but there are no women running in this race.

  • Former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary for Secretary of State of West Virginia. Tennant will challenge incumbent Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) to reclaim the office she held from 2009 to 2017. To date, Tennant is the only Democratic woman to win statewide elected office in West Virginia. 
  • Mary Ann Claytor (D) was unopposed in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent State Auditor JB McCuskey (R). No woman has ever been elected as State Auditor of West Virginia. If elected, Claytor – who is Black – would also be the first woman of color elected statewide in West Virginia.
  • Shelby Jean Fitzhugh (R), the only woman candidate running for Governor of West Virginia, was unsuccessful in her primary bid. No woman has ever served as Governor of West Virginia.

There were no women candidates for attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, or state treasurer in West Virginia.  

Women Will Dominate General Election Ballots in Iowa and New Mexico This Fall


Congressional and statewide primaries were held on Tuesday in seven states: Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. Results were also reported from Idaho’s May 19th primary election. Due to the reliance on mail-in voting, some races remain too close to call, so this post will be updated as results are determined. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ (CAWP) Election Watch page.

Among the most notable results for women:

  • Women are the majority of congressional nominees in Iowa and New Mexico this year.
    • There are competitive all-woman contests in Iowa for the U.S. Senate and in Iowa’s 1st and 2nd congressional districts. This is especially notable because Iowa elected its first woman to Congress in 2014 and its first women to the U.S. House in 2018.
    • Women are 5 of 6 U.S. House nominees already selected in New Mexico, with a woman leading in the Republican primary election in New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district. If she secures the nomination, all major-party nominees for the U.S. House from New Mexico will be women.
  • New Mexico is likely to have an all-woman delegation to the U.S. House in 2021, and that delegation could be all women of color.
    • In New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district – an open seat contest – Teresa Leger Fernandez (D) won the Democratic nomination and is strongly favored to win in November. If she succeeds, New Mexico’s House delegation would be all women in 2021. This would not be the first all-woman House delegation, but it will be the largest. All-woman U.S. House delegations of more than one member have served from both Hawaii and New Hampshire.
    • If Fernandez wins and incumbent Representative Xochitl Torres Small successfully retains her seat in November, New Mexico’s House delegation would also be all women of color in 2021. This would be the largest all-woman of color U.S. House delegation to date. Women of color have previously held both offices in Hawaii's two-member House delegation.
  • At the congressional level, 11 woman versus woman general election congressional contests resulted from Tuesday’s primaries: IA Senate, IA-01, IA-02, IN-02, IN-05, NM-01, NM-02, NM-03, PA-04, PA-05, and PA-07. These add to the 10 woman versus woman contests already decided this primary season. By comparison, there were 33 total woman versus woman general election congressional contests in 2018 at the congressional and statewide executive levels. This year’s contest for Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction will also be between 2 women.
    • Among these congressional contests, two districts, IA-02 and NM-03, are all but guaranteed to be pick-ups for women in Congress, and another district, IN-05, will see a new woman enter Congress in the seat of retiring Representative Susan Brooks. The remaining races feature a woman incumbent.
  • No women advanced in South Dakota’s congressional elections and women nominees are not favored to win Idaho and Maryland’s congressional contests, making it likely that these states’ congressional delegations will remain all-male in 2021.

Idaho

Indiana

Iowa

Maryland

Montana

New Mexico

Pennsylvania

South Dakota


Idaho

U.S. Senate

Paulette Jordan (D) won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Jim Risch (R) in Idaho’s U.S. Senate contest. Jordan was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Idaho in 2018, becoming the first Native American woman to win a major-party nomination for governor in the U.S. If successful in 2020, Jordan would be the first Native American woman in the U.S. Senate and the first woman senator from Idaho. However, Cook Political Report currently rates this race as “Solid Republican,” favoring the incumbent senator.

U.S. House

There are no women currently serving in Idaho’s two-member delegation to the U.S. House and that will not change in 2021. Women are 0 of 4 (0%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Idaho. One (1D) woman House candidate – Staniela Nikolova – was unsuccessful in her primary bid for the U.S. House.


Indiana

U.S. House

Women are currently 2 (2R) of 9 members of the Indiana delegation to the U.S. House (22.2%). Incumbent Representative Susan Brooks (R) is not running for re-election this year.

Women are 7 (4D, 3R) of 18 (38.9%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Indiana, including 4 of 9 (44.4%) Democrats and 3 of 9 (33.3%) Republicans. 10 (8D, 2R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Incumbent Jackie Walorski (R) will be challenged by Pat Hackett (D) in an all-woman contest in Indiana’s 2nd congressional district. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as “Solid Republican.”
  • Victoria Spartz (R) and Christina Hale (D) will compete in an all-woman contest to replace retiring Representative Susan Brooks (R) in Indiana’s 5th congressional district this fall. Cook Political Report currently rates the contest as “Lean Republican.”
  • 3 (2D, 1R) more women will run as challengers to incumbents in districts that strongly favor their opponents.

Of the 7 (4D, 3R) women who are major-party nominees for the U.S. House from Indiana, 4  (3D, 1R) are women of color, including 2 (1D, 1R) Black women – Jeannine Lee Lake (D, IN-06) and Susan Smith (R, IN-07), 1 (1D) multi-racial woman – Thomasina Marsili (D, IN-08), and 1 (1D) Latina – Christina Hale (D, IN-05). If elected, Christina Hale (D) would be the first Latina to represent Indiana in Congress.

Governor and Lieutenant Governor

No women ran for Governor of Indiana this year, but current Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch will run for re-election with Governor Eric Holcomb in November. No woman has ever served as governor of Indiana.


Iowa

U.S. Senate

Incumbent Senator Joni Ernst (R) is the first and only woman senator from Iowa. She is up for re-election this year and was unopposed for the Republican nomination. Theresa Greenfield (D) won the Democratic nomination to challenge Ernst in November. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as “Lean Republican.” If Greenfield defeats Ernst in the fall, she would be the first Democratic woman in the U.S. Senate from Iowa.   

U.S. House

Women are 2 (2D) of 4 members of the Iowa delegation to the U.S. House (50%). Both incumbent Representatives Cindy Axne (D) and Abby Finkenauer (D) were elected in 2018; they are the first women to serve in the U.S. House from Iowa.

Women are 5 (3D, 2R) of 8 (62.5%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Iowa, including 3 of 4 (75%) Democrats and 2 of 4 (50%) Republicans. All women House candidates in Iowa were successful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Both (2D) of Iowa’s incumbent women representatives are running for re-election in competitive general election contests. Both won their seats for the first time in 2018 by flipping their districts from Republican to Democrat.
    • In Iowa’s 1st congressional district, Ashley Hinson (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Abby Finkenauer (D) in a contest deemed a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
    • In Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, incumbent Representative Cindy Axne (D) will seek to hold her seat in another contest deemed a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
  • In Iowa’s 2nd congressional district, Rita Hart (D) and Marianette Miller-Meeks (R) will compete in an all-woman contest that Cook Political Report currently rates as a toss-up. Regardless of which woman wins, Iowa will send a new woman member to the U.S. House in 2021.

All 5 (3D, 2R) women major-party nominees for the U.S. House from Iowa are White women. Iowa has never sent a woman of color to the U.S. Congress.


Maryland

U.S. House

There are no women currently serving in Maryland’s 8-member delegation to the U.S. House.

As of Wednesday morning, a woman is 1 of 11 (9.1%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Maryland, including 0 of 7 (0%) Democrats and 1 of 4 (25%) Republicans already selected. 6 (3D, 3R) women remain in 3 primary contests that remain too close to call. Another 13 (10D, 3R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • The only woman that has secured a major-party nomination in Maryland’s U.S. House contests as of Wednesday morning is Kim Klacik (R), who will challenge now-incumbent Representative Kweisi Mfume in Maryland’s 7th congressional district. Mfume defeated Klacik in the April special election to fill the remainder of Elijah Cummings’ term by 48.7 points and he is expected to win the full term in November.
  • Women candidates remaining in the races that remain too close to call as of Wednesday morning are all running to challenge incumbents in districts that strongly favor their opponent.
  • Together, these results suggest that it will be unlikely for Maryland to elect a woman to the U.S. House in 2020.

The only woman nominee thus far in Maryland’s House contests – Kim Klacik (R) – is Black. Of the 6 (3D, 3R) women who remain in races that are too close to call, 2 (2R) are Black: Patricia Rogers (R, MD-08) and Bridgette Cooper (R, MD-08).


Montana

U.S. Senate

No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from Montana. There are no women candidates running to challenge incumbent Senator Steve Daines (R) this year.

U.S. House

No woman currently represents Montana in the U.S. House. In fact, no woman has represented Montana in Congress since Jeanette Rankin left office in 1943. Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress, serving first from 1917 to 1919 and again from 1941 to 1943.

In 2020, Kathleen Williams (D) is 1 of 2 major-party nominees for Montana’s open and at-large U.S. House seat. Williams was also the Democratic nominee for this seat in 2018, when she was defeated by incumbent Representative Greg Gianforte (R) by 4.7 points. Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as “Likely Republican.”

One (1R) woman – Debra Lamm – was unsuccessful in her primary bid for the U.S. House.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Six statewide executive positions are up for election in Montana this year. Women are 4 (1D, 3R) of 12 (33.3%) nominees selected for these offices. 3 (2D, 1R) women were defeated in primary elections for statewide executive offices in Montana.

  • Businesswoman Whitney Williams was the only woman running for Governor of Montana in an open-seat, competitive election. She was defeated in the Democratic primary election.
  • Kristen Juras (R) is running mate to current-Representative and gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte. Together, they secured the Republican nomination for November.
  • Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen (R) will be challenged by Melissa Romano (D) in an all-woman general election contest.
  • Christi Jacobsen won the Republican nomination for the open seat of Secretary of State. If successful in November, she would be the first Republican woman to hold that office in Montana.


New Mexico

U.S. Senate

No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from New Mexico and that will not change in 2021. Just one woman – Elisa Martinez (R) – ran for the U.S. Senate this year and she was defeated in the Republican primary.

U.S. House

Women are currently 2 of 3 members of the New Mexico delegation to the U.S. House (66.7%).

All 6 (3D, 3R) major-party U.S. House nominees from New Mexico in 2020 are women. 4 (2D, 2R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Both (2D) of New Mexico’s incumbent women representatives – who were first elected in 2018 – are running for re-election this year. Both were unopposed in their primary contests.
    • In New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, Representative Deb Haaland (D) is strongly favored to win re-election in November. She will be challenged by Michelle Garcia Holmes (R) in an all-woman contest.
    • In New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district, Representative Xochitl Torres-Small (D) will be challenged by Yvette Herrell (R) in a re-match of their 2018 all-woman contest. Small defeated Herrell by just 1.8 points in 2018 and Cook Political Report currently rates this contest as a toss-up.
  • In New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district – an open seat contest – Teresa Leger Fernandez (D) won the Democratic nomination and is strongly favored to win in November. Her opponent is also a woman: Alexis Johnson (R). Both women are Latina.
  • New Mexico’s House delegation is all but certain to be all women in 2021. This would not be the first all-woman House delegation, but it will be the largest. All-woman U.S. House delegations of more than one member have served from both Hawaii and New Hampshire.  
    • If Representative Small successfully retains her seat in November, New Mexico’s House delegation would also be all women of color in 2021. This would be the largest all-woman of color U.S. House delegation to date. Women of color have previously held both offices in Hawaii’s two-member House delegation.

Of the 6 (3D, 3R) women major-party nominees for the U.S. House from New Mexico, 5 (3D, 2R) are women of color. Incumbent Representative Deb Haaland (D, NM-01) is one of the first Native American women in Congress and 4 (2D, 2R) other women nominees are Latina: incumbent Representative Xochitl Torres Small (D, NM-02), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D, NM-03), and Michelle Garcia Holmes (R, NM-01).


Pennsylvania

U.S. House

Women are 4 (4D) of 18 members of the Pennsylvania delegation to the U.S. House (22.2%).

As of Saturday, women are 10 (7D, 3R) of 35 (28.6%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Pennsylvania, including 7 of 17 (41.2%) Democrats and 3 of 18 (16.7%) Republicans already selected. 1 (1D) woman candidate remains in a primary contest that remains too close to call. 

  • All 4 (4D) women incumbents – Representatives Madeleine Dean (D), Chrissy Houlahan (D), Mary Gay Scanlon (D), and Susan Wild (D) – were unopposed in the primary election and will seek re-election in November. They were all elected for the first time in 2018. While Dean, Houlahan, and Scanlon are strongly favored to win in November, Wild’s re-election contest in Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district is deemed more competitive. 
    • Dean will be challenged by Republican nominee Kathy Barnette (R) in Pennsylvania’s 4th congressional district.
    • Scanlon will be challenged by Republican nominee Dasha Pruett (R) in Pennsylvania's 5th congressional district.
    • Wild will be challenged by Republican nominee Lisa Scheller (R) in Pennsylania’s 7th congressional district.
  • 6 (3D, 3R) women have already won nominations to challenge incumbents in November. Among them, 2 (1D, 1R) are running in contests deemed competitive by Cook Political Report. Christina Finello (D) is will challenge incumbent Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R) in Pennsylvania’s 1st congressional district, a contest  rated as “Lean Republican” by Cook Political Report. In Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district, Lisa Scheller (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Susan Wild (D) in a contest rated as “Lean Democratic” by Cook Political Report.

Of the 10 (7D, 3R) women who are major-party nominees for the U.S. House from Pennsylvania, just 1 (1R) is a woman of color: Kathy Barnette (R, PA-04) is Black. Pennsylvania has never sent a woman of color to Congress.

Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women do not currently hold any statewide elected executive offices in Pennsylvania.

As of Saturday, women are 2 (2R) of 5 (40%) major-party nominees already selected for statewide executive offices up for election in Pennsylvania, including 0 of 2 (0%) Democrats and 2 of 3 (66.7%) Republicans. 4 (4D) women, including 3 women of color, remain in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary contest for State Auditor, which remains too close to call. 

  • Heather Heidelbaugh (R) was unopposed in the primary and will challenge incumbent Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in November.
  • Stacy Garrity (R) was unopposed in the primary and will challenge State Treasurer Joseph Torsella (D) in November.

Of the 2 (2R) women already selected as major-party nominees for statewide executive offices from Pennsylvania, none are women of color. No woman of color has ever been elected statewide in Pennsylvania.


South Dakota

U.S. Senate

Just one woman – Scyller Borglum (R) – ran for the U.S. Senate in South Dakota. She was defeated by incumbent Senator Mike Rounds (R).

U.S. House

Just one woman – Liz Marty May (R) – ran for South Dakota’s at-large U.S. House seat. She was defeated by incumbent Representative Dusty Johnson (R).

Early June Primaries Shed Light on Gender Trends to Watch in Election 2020

The 2020 sub-presidential primary election season kicked off on March 3rd with congressional and statewide primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. But within weeks of those contests, the COVID-19 pandemic created entirely new electoral conditions across the country. In addition to shifting to mail-in voting as the primary mode for casting ballots, many states postponed primary elections until early summer. Many of those postponed primaries, in addition to the regularly-scheduled contests, will take place over the next 2 weeks.

Together, 12 states – Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia – will hold congressional and statewide primary elections on June 2nd and June 9th, with 1 more state – Idaho – reporting results from their May 19th election on June 2nd. This concentration of primary contests provides as an opportunity to evaluate gender and partisan trends at play not only in these contests, but throughout the 2020 election cycle.  

1. The positive trend in women’s candidacies has continued beyond election 2018.

Earlier this month, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) marked a milestone in women’s candidacies in the 2020 cycle; a record number of women candidates have now filed to run for the U.S. House, surpassing the notable record that was set in 2018 with about 10% of House seats still left to file this year. The increase in women’s candidacies is important, as it demonstrates that the positive trend we witnessed in the 2018 election will continue into this cycle.

But women’s representation in the candidate pool must be considered in the company of men. Tracking the percentage of all candidates who are women better accounts for increased candidacies across both men and women. Women are 27.7% of all congressional and statewide executive candidates on ballots in June 2nd and June 9th primary elections, and this level of representation is fairly consistent across office type; women are 28.6% of U.S. House candidates, 29% of U.S. Senate candidates, and 23.3% of candidates for statewide executive offices being contested in early June. These percentages mirror women’s levels of representation across the entire population of filed candidates in 2020, which are up from 2018 at the congressional level, but down among candidates for statewide executive offices – of which there are far fewer contests nationwide this year.

Gender parity among U.S. officeholders requires greater gender parity among those who run office. These data demonstrate that we are still far from this goal, but that – at least at the congressional level – this cycle represents some progress.   

2. The partisan gap among women candidates is smaller in 2020 than 2018, but Democratic women are still better represented among women and within their own party.

Partisan differences were stark in women’s 2018 candidacies, with Democratic women responsible for nearly all of the gains in women’s candidacies, nominations, and officeholder gains. With Republican women already breaking their previous record for U.S. House candidacies in 2020, paying close attention to the partisan gap among women – in both raw numbers and proportions of their party’s candidates – provides us a clearer sense of how evenly progress for women candidates is distributed and whether or not that has changed over time.

In the 12 early June primaries, women are about 34.5% of all Democratic and 21.5% of all Republicans congressional and statewide executive candidates. This largely mirrors the representation of women among all Democratic (36.6%) and all Republican (20.9%) candidates in states where filing deadlines have already passed in the 2020 cycle. While Democratic women are better represented among their party’s contenders, Republican women have gained slightly more ground since 2018 within their party’s candidate pool. At this point in 2020, Republican women are up 4.7 percentage points from 2018 in their representation among all Republican congressional and statewide executive candidates, while Democratic women are up by 3.4 percentage points. The gains are larger in U.S. House contests, where Republican women were just 13.7% of Republican candidates in 2018 and represent 21.5% of U.S. House candidates filed as of this week; Democratic women were 32.5% of their party’s House candidates in 2018 and are up to 37.6% thus far in 2020.

Both Democratic and Republican women represent a smaller proportion of their party’s candidates for statewide executive offices in 2020 than they did in 2018, but it is important to be especially cautious about comparing these two years due to the much smaller number of statewide executive offices on the ballot in 2020.

There is one more important caveat to evaluating party differences and trends in the percentage of candidates who are women. In 2020, more women than ever are running as Democratic incumbents, while Republican women are more likely to be running as challengers to incumbents. For Democratic women, that means that even the same percentage of candidates as 2018 might yield even better outcomes due to the incumbency advantage. For Republican women, representing a greater percentage of Republican candidates will matter most if they are running in districts and for offices with the greatest possibility of party gains.

3. Increasing gender parity among officeholders means not only ensuring that more women run, but that women candidates run in contests and contexts in which they can find electoral success. The dominance of men among incumbents means that women are still especially reliant on open and competitive contests to make electoral gains.

U.S. House

Women are just 20% of incumbent candidates for the U.S. House on June 2nd and June 9th primary ballots. And while the incumbency advantage is real, women are over-represented among vulnerable incumbents in these contests – and likely across the 2020 cycle – because of their success in the most competitive districts just two years ago. Democratic women were responsible for flipping the majority of House seats from Republican to Democrat in 2018; today, they are about half (7 of 15) Democratic incumbents running for re-election to the House in districts Cook Political Report rates as toss-ups.

Two of those women – Iowa’s first women Representatives Cindy Axne (D, IA-03) and Abby Finkenauer (D, IA-01) – will be on the ballot on June 2nd. While these women are likely to win their party’s nomination next week, they are expected to face competitive conditions come November; incumbent Representatives Susan Wild (D, PA-07) and Susie Lee (D, NV-03) are also new Democratic women members on upcoming ballots that are running in vulnerable districts this year. Increasing women’s representation in 2021 means holding on to gains women made in the 2018 election.

Republican women are a smaller share of incumbents overall and within their party. Of the just 13 Republican women who currently serve in the House, 11 are running for re-election in 2020. The two incumbent representatives not running for re-election are Susan Brooks (R, IN-05) and Representative Martha Roby (R, AL-02). While their numbers are small, the remaining Republican women House incumbents are favored to win re-election, including the only freshman Republican woman in the 116th Congress – Carol Miller (R, WV-03) – who is on the ballot on June 9th.

Non-incumbent women – women running as challengers or for open seats – make up the large majority of women candidates for the U.S. House this year. And more than 50% of non-incumbent women candidates who are not challenging members of their own party in the primary are running for nominations in districts where the opposing party is strongly favored to win in November. This signals caution about not assuming more women candidates necessarily yields more women officeholders.

Of 73 House districts on ballots over the next two weeks, women have the potential for gains – if they make it through the primary – in seven districts where women are non-incumbent candidates and current race ratings favor their party. These potentially opportune districts include IN-01, IN-05, GA-09, GA-14, MT-AL, NM-03, PA-07.

  • Indiana’s 1st congressional district (June 2nd): Four Democratic primary candidates in this open-seat district that is currently rated as “Solid Democrat” by Cook Political Report are women. If one of the two Latina Democrats running for this seat wins the nomination and election in November, she would be the first Latina to represent Indiana in Congress. Among the seven Republican primary candidates, none are women.
  • Indiana’s 5th congressional district (June 2nd): Women are six (3D, 3R) of 20 (5D, 15R) candidates in this open-seat contest that Cook Political Report rates as “Lean Republican.”
  • Georgia’s 9th congressional district (June 9th): Women are three (1D, 2R) of 12 (3D, 9R) candidates in this open-seat contest that Cook Political Report rates as “Solid Republican.” 
  • Georgia’s 14th congressional district (June 9th): Cook Political Report rates this open-seat contest as “Solid Republican” in which Marjorie Greene (R) is the only woman of nine Republican candidates.
  • Montana’s at-large congressional district (June 2nd): Kathleen Williams, who is one of two candidates for the Democratic nomination, was the Democratic nominee for this seat in 2018. She lost the general election to Greg Gianforte (R), who is not running for re-election, by 4 points. Debra Lamm, who is one of six candidates for the Republican nomination, is a former member of the Montana House and Senate. Cook Political Report rates this seat as “Likely Republican.”
  • New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district (June 2nd): Women are five (3D, 2R) of ten (7D, 3R) candidates in this open-seat contest that Cook Political Report rates as “Solid Democratic.” If a woman wins this seat and incumbent women in NM-01 and NM-02 hold their seats, New Mexico would have an all-woman House delegation. Because four of five women candidates are women of color, the New Mexico House delegation could also be all-women of color in 2021. 
  • Pennsylvania’s 7th congressional district (June 2nd): Lisa Scheller (R) is one of two Republicans seeking to challenge incumbent Representative Susan Wild (D) in a contest that Cook Political Report currently rates as “Lean Democratic.”

In another seven districts that Cook Political Report currently rates as toss-ups, women are running as either incumbents (GA-06, IA-01, IA-03, NM-02), challengers (GA-06, IA-01, NM-02, SC-01), both (GA-06, IA-01, NM-02), or for open seats (GA-07, IA-02).

  • Georgia’s 6th congressional district (June 9th): Incumbent Representative Lucy McBath (D) could face former Representative Karen Handel in a rematch of their 2018 contest, which McBath won by 1%.
  • Georgia’s 7th congressional district (June 9th): Among the women running for this open seat is Carolyn Bourdeaux, who was the Democratic nominee in 2018, losing to now-Representative Rob Woodall (R) by just over 300 votes (0.2%). This race is currently rated as a toss-up by Cook Political Report.
  • Iowa’s 1st congressional district (June 2nd): Incumbent Representative Abby Finkenauer (D) won her seat for the first time in 2018 by five points. Ashley Hinson is one of two Republicans running to challenge Finkenauer in November.
  • Iowa’s 2nd congressional district (June 2nd): Rita Hart is the only Democratic candidate in this open-seat race. Hart ran and lost as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Iowa in 2018 and is running again in 2020 for the U.S. House. Marianette Miller-Meeks is one of five candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
  • Iowa’s 3rd congressional district (June 2nd): Incumbent Representative Cindy Axne (D) won her seat for the first time in 2018 by two points. There are no Republican women vying for this seat.
  • New Mexico’s 2nd congressional district (June 2nd): Incumbent Representative Xochitl Torres-Small defeated Yvette Herrell (R) in 2018 by just under 2 points. Herrell is one of two Republican women running to challenge Torres-Small this year.
  • South Carolina’s 1st congressional district (June 9th): Two women are running for the Republican nomination in this district, including State Representative Nancy Mace who made national news in 2019 when she spoke openly on the House floor about being raped at age 16 to oppose an abortion bill that included no exception for rape. Mace was also among the first women cadets at The Citadel.

U.S. Senate

There are eight U.S. Senate contests being held this year in the 12 states holding primaries on June 2nd and June 9th. Women are candidates in six of eight of those Senate contests, including incumbent Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), who are favored to win re-election this fall. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) will also compete in a special Senate election in November. Six Democratic women are running in two primary contests – in Georgia and Iowa – in early June to challenge incumbents in contests deemed competitive by Cook Political Report.

Governor

There are four gubernatorial primaries in being held in the next two weeks in Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia. Republican incumbent men are favored to win re-election in all but one of those contests; Montana’s open-seat race is currently rated as a toss-up and Whitney Williams is one of two candidates running for the Democratic nomination.

Stay Tuned

CAWP will continue to track women's candidacies throughout the 2020 cycle, not only keeping track of how many women are running for office, but also where they are running and how well represented they are among all candidates on primary and general election ballots. In monitoring gender trends, we will continue to provide nuanced analyses not only by party and levels of office, but also with an eye to race type and competitiveness to ensure that any predictions for women’s gains in representation come 2021 are not over-stated. As we cautioned in the 2018 cycle, the work to achieve gender parity in American politics will not be done in any single election cycle. The 2020 election will offer some important opportunities for women to break new barriers and increase representation, including opportunities in states holding primaries in the next two weeks, but the work to achieve gender parity among candidates and officeholders will continue beyond this year. 

Women Secure Multiple Nominations in Oregon, But Few Gains Likely in November


Final votes were counted yesterday in Oregon’s congressional primary. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ (CAWP) Election Watch.

Among the most notable results for women:

  • Both incumbent women running in Oregon’s congressional and statewide executive primaries – U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D, OR-01) and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) – will be on the ballot this fall and are favored to win re-election. 
  • Republican women won nominations for the U.S. Senate and 2 of 5 U.S. House districts in Oregon. They will challenge incumbents who are favored to win re-election in each of these contests in the fall.
  • In the open seat contest for Secretary of State, current State Senator Kim Thatcher secured the Republican nomination and current State Senator Shemia Fagan is competing in a Democratic primary that remains too close to call. Current Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) is not running for re-election.


U.S. Senate

The last, and only, woman to serve in the U.S. Senate from Oregon was Maurine Brown Neuberger (D), who held office from 1960 to 1967. This year, Jo Rae Perkins (R) won the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley (D) – who was unopposed in the Democratic primary – in a contest currently rated as "Solid Democratic" by Cook Political Report. Perkins was the only woman running in the four-person Republican primary. If elected, she would be the first Republican woman senator from Oregon and the first woman senator in more than 5 decades.

 
U.S. House

Women candidates secured 4 of 10 (40%) major-party nominations for U.S. House seats decided in Oregon on May 19th. Women are 2 of 5 (40%) Democratic nominees and 2 of 5 (40%) Republican nominees for the U.S. House in Oregon. 5 (3D, 2R) women candidates were unsuccessful in their primary bids for the U.S. House.

  • Incumbent Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D) – who is currently the only woman in Oregon’s five-member delegation to the U.S. House – defeated two challengers, both women, in the Democratic primary. She is strongly favored to win re-election this fall.
  • Alex Spenser (D) won the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s 2nd congressional district, home to the only open seat contest for the U.S. House in Oregon this year. She will run in a general election contest that strongly favors the Republican nominee according to Cook Political Report’s current ratings.
  • Both Republican women nominees will challenge Democratic incumbents this fall in races currently rated as "Solid Democratic" by Cook Political Report.
    • Joanna Harbour (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Earl Blumenaeur (D) in Oregon’s 3rd congressional district.
    • Amy Courser (R) will challenge incumbent Representative Kurt Schrader (D) in Oregon’s 5th congressional district.

Amy Courser (R, OR-05) identifies as multi-racial, both Native American and White. Oregon has never sent a woman of color to Congress.


Statewide Elected Executive Office

Women are currently 4 (2D, 1R, 1NP) of 5 statewide elected executive officials in Oregon. Just 3 of those offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Treasurer – are up for election in 2020.

  • Incumbent Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R) did not run for re-election. She was appointed by Governor Kate Brown in 2019 upon the condition that she would not run for a full term.

This year, women are 2 of 5 (40%) major-party nominees already selected for statewide elected executive offices in Oregon, including 1 of 2 (50%) Democrats and 1 of 3 (33.3%) Republicans. 1 (1D) woman candidates was unsuccessful in her primary bid for statewide elected executive office and another - State Senator Shemia Fagan (D) - remains in the Democratic primary race for Secretary of State, which is too close to call.

  • Incumbent Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) was uncontested in the Democratic primary and will compete for re-election this fall. She has served since 2012.
  • Kim Thatcher (R), who is currently a state senator, won the Republican nomination for Secretary of State. State Senator Shemia Fagan is competing in the Democratic primary that remains too close to call. If Fagan is victorious, a woman will be all but assured to be elected Secretary of State. 

Both women major-party nominees for the statewide elected executive offices in Oregon, as well as Senator Fagan, are White women. Just 1 (1NP) woman of color – Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo (2003-2012) – has ever served in statewide elected executive office in Oregon.


For primary results summaries from other states and full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, and historical comparisons, see CAWP’s Election Watch.

Democrat Kara Eastman will Challenge Don Bacon Again in Nebraska, Seeking to Become First Democratic Woman to Represent Nebraska in Congress


Final votes were counted yesterday in Nebraska’s congressional primary. Full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, results from previous primaries, and historical comparisons, are available via the Center for American Women and Politics’ (CAWP) Election Watch.

Among the most notable results for women:

  • Women are 2 of 3 Democratic nominees for the U.S. House from Nebraska, each challenging incumbent Republican men.
  • In Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, Democratic nominee Kara Eastman will challenge incumbent Republican Representative Don Bacon in a rematch of their 2018 general election contest. Eastman lost her bid against Bacon by just 2 points in 2018 and this year’s contest is currently rated as Lean Republican by Cook Political Report. If Eastman defeats Bacon in November, she will be the first Democratic woman in Congress from Nebraska and the first woman to represent Nebraska in the U.S. House since 1990.


U.S. Senate

Women are currently 1 (1R) of 5 (20%) members of the Nebraska delegation to the U.S. Congress. Incumbent Senator Deb Fischer (R) is not up for re-election this year.

2 (2D) women were defeated in their primary bids for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Senator Ben Sasse (R).


U.S. House

No women currently serve in Nebraska’s three-member delegation to the U.S. House, and no woman has represented Nebraska in the U.S. House since 1990.

Women candidates secured 2 of 6 (33.3%) major-party nominations for U.S. House seats decided in Nebraska on May 12th. Women are 2 of 3 (66.6%) Democratic nominees for U.S. House and 0 of 3 (0%) Republican nominees for the U.S. House in Nebraska. All Republican nominees are male incumbents.  

  • Kara Eastman (D) will challenge incumbent Representative Don Bacon (R) in Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district. Eastman lost her bid against Bacon by just 2 points in 2018. This general election contest is currently rated as Lean Republican by Cook Political Report. If Eastman defeats Bacon in November, she will be the first Democratic woman in Congress from Nebraska and the first woman to represent Nebraska in the U.S. House since 1990. Learn more about women running again in 2020 after a 2018 loss at our Rebound Candidates page.
  • Kate Bolz (D) will challenge incumbent Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R) in Nebraska’s 1st congressional district. Fortenberry, who defeated Democrat Jessica McClure by 20 points in 2018, is strongly favored to win re-election.
  • There are no open U.S. House seats in Nebraska in this year’s election.

Both (2D) women nominees for the U.S. House from Nebraska are White women. Nebraska has never sent a woman of color to Congress nor elected a woman of color to any statewide office (U.S. Senate or statewide executive).

Special elections for U.S. House seats were also held yesterday California's 25th congressional district and Wisconsin's 7th congressional district. Tricia Zunker (D) was defeated in Wisconsin and the contest between Christy Smith (D) and Mike Garcia (R) in California is still too close to call. For primary results summaries from other states and full context about women in the 2020 elections, including candidate lists, summaries, and historical comparisons, see CAWP’s Election Watch.

What Voters Could Biden's VP Pick Mobilize?


With Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, there has been speculation about who he will choose to be his running mate. Biden has pledged that his vice-presidential pick will be a woman stating, “There are a number of women who qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president.” After making this commitment in mid-March, journalists and political pundits wasted no time generating lists of qualified women who Joe Biden could potentially choose to be his running mate.

Despite pundits and party elites placing an outsized level of importance on the VP pick, rarely has a vice presidential running mate had more than a trivial impact on an election outcome. However, we arguably face the most important and consequential presidential election in modern history. In the context of global pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of Americans, devastated the economy, left millions of Americans unemployed, and pushed our healthcare system to the brink, Biden’s pick for VP choice may be perceived as far more meaningful than in past elections. Furthermore, given Biden’s age, there is a distinct possibility that whoever he chooses will be running a presidential race in 2024.

So much of the perceived strategy of Biden’s choice hinges on what we think is more crucial to Biden’s success- “persuasion targets” verses “turnout targets.” Is the goal to increase turnout among younger voters and voters of color? Given the difference in turnout between 2012 and 2016 among black voters and the expanding Latino electorate in key states, this is a prudent goal. One of the most defining divides in the Democratic primary was the age difference in support for Biden, with voters under 45 more likely to have supported Bernie Sanders and voters over 45 more likely to support Biden. Furthermore, young voters (who are also more likely to be voters of color) simply turn out to vote at much lower levels. Polling shows that Biden has a huge lead over Trump with young voters, but this issue will inevitably be one of turnout.

But is the more important goal to target persuadable voters? These voters would include white voters in the Midwest (many who voted for Trump in 2016), white suburbanites, moderate and conservative voters, as well as Independents. Despite changing demographics in the U.S., white men still make up about one-third of the electorate. In 2018, 41% of white men voted for Democrats and undoubtedly helped contribute to their success. Polling shows that the split among white voters by college education is essentially the same as it was in 2016; whites without a college degree support Trump over Biden by about 30 points. However, the same polling also highlights the fact that Biden has not significantly increased support among whites with a college degree.

Speculation about the veepstakes is likely to pick up even more momentum as former Vice President Biden recently announced a panel of advisors to aid him in the selection of a running mate. Although there are many think pieces devoted to discussing who would be the smartest strategic pick for Biden, most fail to substantively discuss or provide data on what kind of voters each potential VP nominee might attract. Using relevant data from recent surveys, elections, and each potential VP’s past successes, I evaluate the types of voters each VP pick might be able to mobilize and how much of a boon that potential mobilization would be to the Biden campaign.

 

1. Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams rose to national prominence when she ran as the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor in 2018. While some of the other potential running mates under consideration have remained coy about any vice-presidential ambitions, Abrams has been open about her desire to serve as Biden’s VP. She has noted her history of fighting to protect the right to vote, her experience serving as her party’s minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, and has argued that it would be a mistake for Joe Biden not to pick a black woman like herself. Abrams told Jake Tapper on CNN, “As a young black woman, growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if you don't raise your hand, people won't see you, and they won't give you attention.”

Given Abrams newcomer status to national politics, there are limited data points to draw from that speak to the types of voters she might bring into the fold. But her past performances offer some insights. Abrams lost her gubernatorial bid to then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp by a thin margin. Kemp was overseeing the election that he competed in and enforced some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, resulting in allegations of voter suppression. Despite this, more black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Latino voters turned out in Georgia’s 2018 midterm election than in the 2016 presidential election. Georgia was the only state where midterm turnout was greater than presidential turnout among voters of color. This speaks to Abrams’ ability to mobilize voters of color who might otherwise stay home on Election Day. Additionally, Abrams achieved this without losing the support for white voters. She won a larger share of the white vote than President Barack Obama. In the Data for Progress poll, 17% of black voters chose Abrams as their preferred VP nominee (second only to Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren at 22%). Furthermore, a plurality (21%) of black voters felt that Abrams would be the most effective in implementing policies as VP.

 

2.  Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has largely flown under the radar in the veepstakes discussion and has been left out of most national polling. Wisconsin is emerging as one of the most crucial (if not the most crucial) battleground state in the 2020 election. Baldwin has been in the Senate since 2013 and is the first openly LGBT member of the Senate. Although she lacks name recognition nationally, Senator Baldwin won her 2018 race by double digits. This is no small feat in a purple state like Wisconsin where Democrat Tony Evers beat Scott Walker in the 2018 gubernatorial race by a razor thin margin (slightly over 1%). In fact, about 8% of voters split their ticket and supported both Walker and Baldwin. Exit polls show that 10% of Republicans and 59% of Independents or non-affiliated voters voted for Baldwin. This fact speaks to Baldwin’s ability to put together a coalition that includes both progressives, Independents, and even some Trump supports. Another potential strength is her progressive bona fides. She is one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate. This could mobilize progressives who feel lukewarm about Biden.

 

3. Senator Tammy Duckworth

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth is another woman on this list who has made history. She won her 2016 election and became the second Asian American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, the first woman with a disability to be elected to Congress, and the first Senator to give birth while in office. Duckworth is a combat veteran and was the first female double amputee from the Iraq War (her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by Iraqi insurgents). She served in the house for four years before running for the Senate. Although Duckworth has not been included in many national polls, YouGov polling indicates that she is slightly more popular among millennials and men. In her 2016 Senate victory, she won only 17 out of Illinois’ 102 counties. Duckworth won by huge margins in terms of total votes in urban counties which secured her victory. According to CNN exit polls from 2016, she did particularly well among non-white voters, and notably, voters without a college degree as well as moderates and Independents.

Senator Duckworth previously served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She has a long history of advocating for vets. Although the relationship between electoral victory and candidate military experience is nuanced, researchers have found that people use candidates’ military service to make inferences about defense competence and interventionism that can lead to higher support among some groups of voters. Other work has found that voters overwhelming perceive candidates with military experience to be more competent in handling national security and defense issues. It’s difficult to extrapolate what this might mean in terms of any potential benefit to the Biden campaign. However, Duckworth’s distinct lived experience as a veteran, Asian-American woman, a person with a physical disability, and a new mother, might appeal to voters seeking representation and recognition in the next administration.
 

4. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Another governor that has garnered attention as a potential veep choice is New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lujan Grisham became the first Latina Democratic woman governor in 2019, after serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite holding these posts, Lujan Grisham’s national profile remains relatively low, reducing the amount of data from which to draw in predicting her influence on a presidential ticket. Elected from both a majority-Latino district and state and as the former head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Lujan Grisham would bring strong ties to the Latino community. This might help a Biden presidential ticket with mobilizing Latino voters. In the presidential primary, Sanders did far better with Latino voters than Biden. A recent survey from Latino Decisions shows support for Biden at 59% among Latinos, compared to just two months ago when it was at 67%. According to New York Times, Latinos are expected to be the largest nonwhite ethnic voting bloc this fall. Latino support in key swing states like Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania could be decisive for Biden.

It’s also worth noting, given the current public health crisis, that Governor Lujan Grisham began her career as a health commissioner in Bernalillo County and ultimately was appointed as New Mexico’s Secretary of Health. Lujan Grisham has also been garnering high approval ratings (62%) for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

5. Senator Kamala Harris

Out of all the potential VP nominees, the one that has perhaps been cited the most as a likely pick is Senator Kamala Harris. In a March 2020 YouGov poll, 18% of Democratic primary voters selected Kamala Harris as their preferred choice for Biden’s running mate (second only to Warren). In the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, Harris was in the middle of pack with 10% of respondents choosing her as their preferred VP running mate. Her support, also in the Harvard poll, remains relatively stable across age groups, although older voters preferred her slightly more than younger voters. There was also a notable gap in support for Harris across racial lines with 16% of black voters selecting her verses 9% of white voters. However, it’s unclear how much of a benefit this is to the Biden coalition given his already deeply entrenched support in the black community. It’s also not a given that Kamala Harris, a black woman, would mobilize black voters. During the presidential race, Harris, as well as the only other black candidate in the race, Cory Booker, were unable to make inroads in South Carolina, a state where African Americans are about a third of the population and an even larger proportion of Democratic voters. One promising data point for Harris is that, in the March YouGov poll, she garnered the highest support among Hispanic voters (26%) in VP selection. The Latino vote will be an essential voting bloc in 2020.

Based on these data points, it’s clear that while Democratic primary voters have generally warm feelings towards Kamala Harris, but her support among other groups suggests that she might have trouble generating enthusiasm outside of the existing Biden coalition.

 

6. Senator Amy Klobuchar

Another potential VP pick is Senator Amy Klobuchar. Klobuchar has 63% favorability among Democratic primary voters according to the latest YouGov poll. The moderate Minnesota senator displays major strength among older voters, particularly those 65 and older. In the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, Klobuchar was the preferred VP choice for 19% of respondents 65 and older (the most popular choice among that age group) and 12% of voters 50-64 compared to only 3% of voters 18-34 and 5% of voters 35-49. These numbers indicate that Senator Klobuchar will better mobilize older voters. In the YouGov poll, she is the second highest in support from Democratic primary voters age 65+. However, it’s important to note that generally, these voters are already mobilized. We know that older people go to the polls at significantly larger numbers than younger people. According to CNN exit polls during the midterm election, 56% of voters were over age 50 and 26% were 65 or over. By comparison, only 13% of voters were under the age of 30 and this was considered a high turnout for young voters.

Klobuchar clearly appeals to older voters but it’s unclear that would be a significant benefit to the Biden coalition. It is worth noting that in the Harvard poll, Klobuchar was tied with Sanders as the preferred candidate of voters who voted for Trump in 2016, suggesting she could pick off some Trump voters. During the presidential primary, where Klobuchar hit a stumbling block was with voters of color. She out-performed expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire (overwhelmingly white states), but failed to mobilize voters of color, particularly black voters, in Nevada and South Carolina, effectively ending her presidential bid.

 

7. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto made history when she became the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. She served as the Attorney General of Nevada from 2007 to 2015 but has not yet achieved much of a national profile. Cortez Masto was included on the most recent Data for Progress poll where she garnered only 1% of support from Democratic voters, most likely a result of her low name ID. As one of the very few Latina women in Congress and as a statewide representative of a state where Latinos are 29% of the population, Cortez Masto has the potential to and experience in mobilizing Latino voters. Her knowledge of and popularity in a swing state like Nevada is also worth weighing in considering her benefit to a presidential ticket.

 

8. Senator Elizabeth Warren

It was only a month and a half ago that Senator Elizabeth Warren, once a front-runner, dropped out of the presidential race. A little over a week ago she endorsed Joe Biden and when asked by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC how she would respond if Biden asked her to serve as vice president, Warren responded “Yes.”

Warren has been the leading woman candidate among Democrats in two recent polls. In an April 2020 Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, 13% of all respondents chose Warren as their preferred VP pick.[1] This is second only to the 20% of respondents who chose Senator Bernie Sanders. When Data for Progress listed only women contenders in another April 2020 survey, 31% of Democratic respondents chose Warren, with Senator Kamala Harris coming in second with 18% of support. Notably, 42% of Democrats identified Warren as the potential vice presidential candidate most ready to be president. In a recent YouGov poll, Elizabeth Warren had the highest favorability (77%) among Democratic primary voters. Other YouGov polling suggests similarly positive feelings for Warren. A plurality of Democratic primary voters in a March 2020 poll said that Biden should select Warren as his VP.

These data points highlight that the Democratic base generally has warm feelings towards Warren. However, conventional wisdom during and after her presidential bid was that the Massachusetts senator does better with women, more educated voters, and more liberal voters. The extant data seems to bear this out. Out of the five women candidates who were included as response options in the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll, the gender gap in support was the largest for Elizabeth Warren with 15% of women selecting Warren as their preferred pick compared to 11% of men in the survey. Similarly, YouGov polling from March indicates that among Democratic primary voters, 29% of women and 25% of men think that Elizabeth Warren should be selected as the nominee for vice-president. According to NBC exit polls, this gender gap was consistent in almost every presidential primary contest as well. In the presidential primary, Warren lost in her home state and struggled to win support among white men without college degrees (although Warren did do better with college-educated white men than with working class white women underscoring the complicated gender dynamics at play). Another weak spot for Warren is with Independent voters. Exit polls from her 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate showed that her that her opponent, Scott Brown, did better with Independent voters, particularly men. This weak spot played out in the 2020 presidential primary in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, and several other Super Tuesday states.

 

9. Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been floated as another potential running mate for Joe Biden, particularly as she rose to national consciousness because of her response to the Covid-19 pandemic and her outspoken criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis. Whitmer has a long and successful electoral history, having served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives and two terms in the Michigan Senate before her gubernatorial run in 2018. Given Michigan’s status as a crucial battleground state and the fact that Trump won Michigan in 2016 by the narrowest margin in the history of the state, it makes sense that Governor Whitmer is on the short list.

Whitmer is rated favorably by 47% of Democratic primary voters, although it’s important to note that over 40% were unfamiliar with her. She is also popular in her state. Despite criticism from some Republicans over her aggressive response to Covid-19 and protests over the stay-at-home orders, Whitmer’s approval rating is 60% in Michigan (15 points higher than Trump’s approval rating in the state). With limited data, it’s difficult to discern what types of voters might be energized by Whitmer as a VP pick. In the Data for Progress poll, only 3% of Democratic voters chose Whitmer as their VP choice, which is likely a product of low name ID. However, her win in 2018 demonstrated her ability to put together a diverse coalition of black voters, suburban women, blue collar workers, and even voters in conservative parts of the state.

 

What does it all mean?

When considering the potential VP nominees (although this list is not exhaustive), the various data points we can draw from, the voter bases that Biden needs to reach, the idiosyncrasies of this particular election environment, and the dubiousness of the importance of the VP pick, it’s difficult to extract any conclusions about who is the best strategic choice for Joe Biden. What does seem instinctively true is the heightened importance of this choice in this particular moment and the long list of highly qualified women who would bring myriad benefits to the presidential ticket.

Furthermore, given the recent allegations of sexual assault against Joe Biden, all of the women on this list will have to thread the needle between supporting Biden without being perceived as being dismissive of the allegations. As Rebecca Traister outlined in her article in The Cut, any woman who accepts Biden’s invitation to be his running mate will become ensnared in this controversy.

For both Biden and the potential VP nominee, there will be trade-offs. Ultimately, it’s less about who Biden chooses and more about the voters she will bring along.

 

[1] It’s worth noting a few caveats regarding the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. The summary data available for this poll includes preference for each candidate across various demographic groups. Survey respondents including Republican, Democratic, and third-party voters and we were unable to restrict our analysis to only Democratic voters.

Pages