Election Analysis

Election Analysis

Women See Success in Ohio Primary — But Most Face Steep Climb to Victory in November

Final votes were counted yesterday in Ohio’s postponed 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 73.3% of Democratic nominees for the U.S. House from Ohio, but only incumbents are favored to win. Just 1 non-incumbent nominee – Kate Schroder (D) – is running in a contest currently deemed competitive, though the district is rated as leaning Republican. The path toward electing new women to the House from Ohio will be difficult.
  • Nearly 40% of women U.S. House nominees in Ohio are Black women, including 2 incumbents who are 2 of 22 Black women in the House.
  • 3 (2D, 1R) women who ran and lost U.S. House races in 2018 are running again this year and will be on the ballot this fall. Learn more about 2020’s rebound candidates here.

Women are currently 3 (3D) of 18 (16.7%) members of the Ohio delegation to the U.S. Congress. No woman has ever served in the U.S. Senate from Ohio, and that will not change after the 2020 election, as there is no U.S. Senate contest in the state. 

Women are currently 3 (3D) of 16 (18.8%) members of the Ohio delegation to the U.S. House. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9) is the longest-serving congresswoman currently in Congress. Representatives Joyce Beatty (D, OH-3) and Marcia Fudge (D, OH-11) are 2 of 22 (9.1%) Black women serving in the U.S. House.

Women candidates secured 13 of 31 (41.9%) major-party nominations for U.S. House seats decided in Ohio on April 28th. Women are 11 of 15 (73.3%) Democratic nominees for U.S. House and 2 of 16 (12.5%) Republican nominees for the U.S. House in Ohio.

  • All 3 (3D) incumbent women representatives – Joyce Beatty (D, OH-3), Marcy Kaptur (D, OH-9), and Marcia Fudge (D, OH-11) – were successful in securing Democratic nominations for re-election in their congressional districts. They are each strongly favored to be re-elected this fall.
    • In the 3rd congressional district, Representative Beatty defeated another woman, Morgan Harper, in the Democratic primary. Harper had been endorsed by Justice Democrats.
    • In the 11th congressional district, Representative Fudge will face another woman, Republican nominee Laverne Gore, in November.
  • 10 (8D, 2R) women nominees will challenge incumbents in November.
    • Among them, only 1 (1D) is running in a district currently deemed competitive by Cook Political Report; Kate Schroder (D) will challenge Representative Steve Chabot (R) in Ohio’s 1st congressional district, which Cook currently rates as leaning Republican.
    • 9 (7D, 2R) will run in districts where those incumbents are favored to win according to Cook Political Report: Jaime Castle (D, OH-2), Shannon Freshour (D, OH-4), Shawna Roberts (D, OH-6), Vanessa Enoch (D, OH-8), Desiree Tims (D, OH-10), Laverne Gore (R, OH-11), Alaina Shearer (D, OH-12), Christina Hagan (D, OH-13), and Hillary O’Connor Mueri (D, OH-14).
    • 3 (2D, 1R) of these nominees also ran for the U.S. House in 2018. Both Shawna Roberts (D, OH-6) and Vanessa Enoch (D, OH-8) were Democratic nominees in the same districts in the 2018 election. Christina Hagan (R, OH-13) ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in Ohio’s 16th congressional district in 2018.
  • There are no open U.S. House seats in Ohio in this year’s election.

5 (4D, 1R) of 13 (38.5%) women nominees for the U.S. House from Ohio are Black women, including 2 (2D) incumbent representatives – Joyce Beatty (D, OH-3) and Marcia Fudge (D, OH-11) – and 3 (2D, 1R) women challengers: Vanessa Enoch (D, OH-8), Desiree Times (D, OH-10), and Laverne Gore (R, OH-11). Fudge and Gore will compete against each other in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, where Fudge is favored to win re-election. No other women of color are major party nominees in Ohio’s U.S. House contests.

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.

Denominators Matter: Women as a Percentage of All Candidates and Nominees


The current COVID-19 crisis has already offered important reminders about how to define and address problems across sectors – health, economic, and political. Here is a simple one: denominators matter. For weeks now, President Trump has touted the total number of coronavirus tests completed in the U.S. as surpassing the rest of the world, implying our country’s superior performance in combatting COVID-19. But this raw number is misleading because the vast size of the U.S. population means that more tests are a given, not a sign of success. The denominator – population size – matters in determining whether or not the U.S. rate of testing is on par with the rest of the world. It is not. As of this week, the U.S. continues to fall behind other countries for tests conducted per million people. Using raw numbers not only yields a mischaracterization of the data, but also risks underestimating the policy – and public health – problem that these data reveal.

At the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), we are used to reminding members of the media and public that denominators matter in assessing women’s political progress. For example, when the number of women in the U.S. House of Representatives reached 100 for the first time, many celebrated this as a key milestone for gender equality. But 100 women in the House did not represent equality. Women at the time were 100 of 435 House members, just 23% of all officeholders. It would take more than a doubling of that number to reach gender parity in officeholding.

Denominators are also important in assessing women’s political progress as candidates for political office. Research shows that – generally – when women run for office, they win at comparable rates to men in comparable contests (see our latest report, however, for more on gender differences in the work required to yield equitable outcomes). That means that one route to increasing the number of women in office is increasing the number of women who run for office.

The 2018 election provided some evidence that increasing the percentage of women in the candidate pool can help to ensure more women are elected. For example, while women were just 17.8% of all candidates on U.S. House ballots in 2016, that number jumped to 24.2% in 2018. Likewise, upon the start of the subsequent congresses, women were 19% of House members in 2017 and 23.4% in 2019.

Many more factors contribute to women’s gains, including electoral contexts that favor their party and/or create opportunities in the form of open or competitive seats. But still, increasing women’s presence in the candidate pools is important in taking advantage of especially opportune moments. This was true for Democratic women running in 2018, a year that proved especially successful for Democrats in U.S. House contests. From 2016 to 2018, the percentage of women among all Democratic House candidates increased from about one-quarter to one-third, and Democratic women made record gains in officeholding as a result. The number of Republican women in the House went down as a result of the 2018 election, evidencing in part the difficult environment for all Republicans. But Republican women were also an especially small part of the GOP candidate pool; in 2018, 13.7% of GOP candidates were women, up from 11.5% in 2016.

We are tracking the percentage of candidates who are women in 2020 to determine whether or not women will again increase their presence on U.S. House ballots nationwide. With filed candidates certified in just about 70% of U.S. House districts (as of April 20, 2020), women are: 28.5% of all U.S. House candidates, 36.7% of all Democratic U.S. House candidates, and 21.1% of all Republican U.S. House candidates on primary ballots this year. Each of these numbers is up from 2018 – with the jump largest for Republican women, but the representation of women candidates is still far from parity with men.



This year, for the first time, we are also tracking women as a percentage of state legislative candidates nationwide. Those data are very preliminary, but they reveal similar patterns. In the first 5 states to hold state legislative primaries (Arkansas, California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas), women were: 32.5% of all state legislative candidates, 43.5% of all Democratic state legislative candidates, and 19.4% of all Republican state legislative candidates on the ballot. These data are consistent with the slightly higher levels of representation for women at the state legislative level, as well as the partisan disparities that persist among women state legislative officeholders.

We are also analyzing the percentage of nominees who are women – those candidates making it through their primary elections. Especially due to COVID-related primary delays, these numbers are still small. Just under 30% of U.S. House nominees have been selected in the 2020 cycle. Of them, women are: 33.6% of all U.S. House nominees, 44.5% of all Democratic U.S. House nominees, and 20.9% of all Republican U.S. House nominees. Each of these percentages is up from women’s representation among nominees in 2018 House elections (inclusive of all nominees following the end of the primaries), with Republican women’s percentage of the nominee pool increasing most from 2018, at least in these early primary states.



A caveat to the rise in both candidacies and nominations for Republican women is that the political environment may not be as friendly to these women in 2020 as it was to Democratic women in 2018. CAWP Research Associate Claire Gothreau took a look at the prospects for Republican women this year in a recent post, noting the particular hurdles they face in running as challengers in Democratic-leaning districts this November. Still, these data show that the rise in Republican women’s House candidacies (a new high) is not only in raw numbers, but also in women’s representation among all Republicans on House ballots in 2020. 

Taking the denominators into account in our assessment of women’s political status and progress often results in some cognitive dissonance, and that is true again here. On the one hand, it is important to celebrate the gains in women’s representation in candidate pools and among nominees. But on the other hand, these data reveal that women remain underrepresented at each stage of the electoral process and across parties. That underrepresentation in electoral politics contributes to the persistent gender disparity in officeholding, which has substantive effects on our political institutions and policymaking. Most important is that these data remind us that we have more work to do.

Women on the Front Lines in Cities’ Fights Against COVID-19


We know that women are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. According the U.S. Census Bureau, women hold 76% of all heath care jobs. More specifically, women are over 85% of registered nurses nationwide, dominating one of the groups battling coronavirus via patient care in hospitals nationwide. Women are also 31 of 50 (62%) of state health officials that are stepping up to lead states through this crisis, as I noted in a post last week.

But we know that the effects of COVID-19 are being felt at a more local level. The virus has hit cities across the United States, with particularly swift rates of infection in some of the nation’s largest urban centers. Here, women are among city executives managing the response. Among the 100 largest (in population) cities in the U.S., 27 had women mayors as of September 2019.  More than one-third (10) of those 27 women are women of color, including 7 Black women, 1 Latina, and 2 women who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander. Of the 1,366 mayors of U.S. cities with populations 30,000 and above, 300, or 22.0%, were women as of September 2019.

Women mayors in all U.S. cities – big or small – are key players in combating COVID-19 in ways that most directly affect our everyday lives. Their leadership, in coordination with health professionals and state and federal political leaders, should not go unnoticed in the fight against coronavirus. There are too many individual women mayors to highlight here, but I have included some examples below of women mayors who are working hard to keep their cities’ citizens safe, as well as how they are doing it.

Seattle, WA: Mayor Jenny Durkan

Mayor Jenny Durkan was elected mayor of Seattle, Washington in November 2017, becoming the first woman to lead the city in nearly a century and the first lesbian to hold the office. Prior to becoming mayor, Durkan served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington; she was the first openly gay U.S. Attorney in history.

When Seattle become the nation’s first hot spot for the coronavirus in early March, Mayor Durkan swiftly coordinated her response with Washington Governor Jay Inslee. The day after learning about the first cases of COVID-19 in her city, Durkan signed a civil emergency proclamation for Seattle. About 10 days later, she issued a warning to mayors across the country, sharing what she felt they needed to know about the virus in a Washington Post op-ed. Committed to ensuring that her city’s residents maintained access to essential needs like food and shelter, she issued a moratorium on evictions and announced a grocery store voucher program for vulnerable citizens within two weeks of issuing the civil emergency. She also approved a program to provide free child care for essential workers.

By the end of March, the data demonstrated that Seattle’s response to the coronavirus was working. Mayor Durkan again shared what she had learned with other leaders across the country, telling Bloomberg Harvard, “People are scared, confused, and getting mixed messages from the national and local level. I think people will trust their local leaders. You have to be transparent about the seriousness of the situation and how difficult it is – and is going to get – but you also have to do it in a way that does not create panic.” Durkan explained how and why she made key decisions in the fight against COVID-19 in her city and offered suggestions about how other cities, states, and the federal government can coordinate the most effective response. She noted, “I would say you can’t go it alone, but you also can’t assume that you should wait for anyone else to make the decisions.”

San Francisco, CA: Mayor London Breed

Mayor London Breed became San Francisco’s first Black woman mayor in July 2018 (she previously served as Acting Mayor from December 2017 to January 2018). Prior to becoming mayor, Breed served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as a San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Commissioner and a San Francisco Fire Commissioner. She was also Executive Director of the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition for over a decade.

Mayor Breed’s early and strong response to COVID-19 has been touted as not only key to curbing her city’s rates of coronavirus cases and deaths, but also influential nationwide. A new profile of Breed from The Atlantic explains, “San Francisco and the broader Bay Area have emerged as a national model for how early and aggressive action can prevent the explosive rise in cases that has overwhelmed hospitals in New York, where leaders were slower to respond.” Under Breed’s leadership, San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to activate their emergency operations center in late January, preparing for a possible outbreak. In early March, after just 2 cases were confirmed in the city, the mayor and her team issued “aggressive recommendations” to limit social gatherings and cancel all non-essential events like concerts and sporting events. An official ban on non-essential events of 100 or more people was imposed on March 13, and while the city had fewer than 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus at the time, the mayor imposed a citywide shelter-in-place order starting on March 17. San Francisco became the first major city to shelter in place in response to COVID-19, with the state of California following suit just two days later. 

In addition to taking early action, Mayor Breed has been attentive to the distinct needs of the city’s homeless and first responders. The city’s Department of Children, Youth, and their Families is providing emergency child and youth care to San Francisco’s first responders, healthcare workers, and other essential city employees. In response to an outbreak in one of the city’s shelters, Breed has emphasized the city’s continued efforts to prevent spread in sites of congregate living. In her recent interview with The Atlantic, Breed cautioned, “San Franciscans are complying and people have been incredible with following this [shelter-in-place] order. But on another note, there are a lot of folks who are not. And I am not comfortable letting up.”

Chicago, IL: Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was elected mayor of Chicago in May 2019, becoming the city’s first Black woman and first openly gay mayor. Prior to becoming mayor, Lightfoot served in various roles in city government, was Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois criminal division, and most recently was a partner in private practice at Mayer Brown LLP.

With the Chicago Department of Health and the Office of Emergency and Management and Communications (OEMC), Mayor Lightfoot began managing Chicago’s response to coronavirus at the beginning of March, coordinating the city’s COVID-19 Taskforce. In late March, both Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Dr. Deborah Birx, Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, added Chicago among the hot spots for coronavirus in the U.S. Their announcements came about a week after Mayor Lightfoot joined Governor JB Pritzker in issuing a stay at home order for entire state of Illinois, including Chicago. At the same time, Lightfoot announced a small business relief fund and additional resources that would go to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. She also announced a partnership with Sittercity to help match essential workers with child care.

By early April, Chicago joined a small number of municipalities in beginning to report COVID-19 testing, infection, and outcome data by race. Communities of color are being hit the hardest by the virus. Data reported from New York City last week showed the Latinx community suffering most, with Black New Yorkers also over-represented in coronavirus-related deaths. In Chicago as of last Saturday, Black residents accounted for 70% of deaths while only making up 29% of the city’s population. In response, Mayor Lightfoot has announced that Chicago will form a Racial Equity Rapid Response Team to confront and mitigate the racialized outcomes present in the COVID-19 crisis. She explained, “This is a call-to-action moment for all of us. When we talk about equity and inclusion, they are not just nice notions. They are an imperative that we must embrace as a city. And we see this even more urgently when we look at these numbers.”

Mayor Lightfoot has taken to the streets and to the internet to push mitigation efforts in her city, often using humor as a way to engage citizens in her efforts to fight COVID-19. At the end of March, she issued a public service announcement as part of the Stay Home, Save Lives initiative. By early April, various memes of the mayor were being circulated online to communicate the seriousness with which she was taking the stay at home order. Lightfoot has shared many of them on her own social media accounts, garnering city-, state-, and nationwide attention. Only reinforcing her role as the enforcer of the city’s stay-at-home efforts, Lightfoot also made news last week for driving around the city and yelling at crowds of people to go home (she has warned she will continue to do this if citizens are not obeying the stay at home order). She explained, “I mean what I say: We have to protect ourselves. We have to be smart about what we’re doing in the course of this pandemic. And if it means that I drive around and check whether people are in compliance, I’m happy to do it.”

These are just a few of the women mayors whose leadership in the fight against COVID-19 has contributed to curbing its spread. Women mayors are also managing coronavirus responses in other cities identified as existing or potential COVID-19 hot spots, including Atlanta (Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms), New Orleans (Mayor Latoya Cantrell), Salt Lake City (Mayor Erin Mendenhall), and Washington, DC (Mayor Muriel Bowser). While this is not an exhaustive list, it is important to note the particular leadership of Black women mayors across major cities most impacted by COVID-19. Of these 4 additional cities especially vulnerable to coronavirus spread, 3 are led by Black women mayors, in addition to the two Black women mayors (Breed and Lightfoot) highlighted above. A recent Essence profile of Black mayors’ responses to COVID-19 illuminated the particular influence of Black women mayors in ensuring that coronavirus responses address the disparate impact of the virus on Black communities.

Many more women mayors are coordinating efforts in cities of all sizes across the U.S. to be sure that their communities stay safe and to prevent spread among their citizens. Their leadership in this crisis is essential and places them on the front lines in the nation’s fight against COVID-19. For that, we should all be grateful.

Women on the Front Lines in States’ Fights Against COVID19


The gendered dimensions of today’s global pandemic are being revealed, felt, and analyzed in real time. From the gender differences in infection and death rates (higher for men) to the amplification of gender inequities in the economic and domestic spheres that heighten the vulnerability of women’s economic, physical, and mental health, the gendered impact of COVID-19 is already evident. There are also gender stories about who is waging the fight against COVID-19. According the U.S. Census Bureau, women hold 76% of all heath care jobs. More specifically, women are over 85% of registered nurses nationwide, dominating one of the groups standing on the front lines battling coronavirus via patient care in hospitals nationwide.

There is another group of women health professionals who are also on the front lines in the war against COVID-19. Women are 31 of 50 (62%) of state health officials that are stepping up to lead states through this crisis. Women’s dominance in these appointed statewide executive roles is notable; women hold less than 30% of statewide elected executive offices nationwide. Moreover, while women of color hold just 5% (16 of 311) of all statewide elected executive positions in the U.S., at least 14% (7 of 50) of state health officials are women of color.

Women are the top health officials in five (IL, MA, MI, NJ, PA) of the ten states that have the highest number of COVID-19 cases today, according to the CDC, and the majority of these women are women of color. Here are a few more facts about these women leading statewide health efforts amidst the current pandemic.

Illinois: Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Department of Health

Dr. Ngozi Ezike is a board-certified internist and pediatrician. Previous to being appointed Director of Illinois’ Department of Health by Governor JB Pritzker in 2019, she was Medical Director at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, the largest single site juvenile detention facility in the country.

Dr. Ezike has, with Governor Pritzker, provided daily briefings to the citizens of Illinois throughout the COVID19 crisis, often presenting her statements in both English and Spanish. On March 30th, she quoted Abraham Lincoln at the briefing, noting, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”


Massachusetts: Dr. Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Health

Dr. Monica Bharel has practiced general internal medicine for more than 20 years including at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, in neighborhood health centers, the Veterans Administration, and at nonprofit organizations. Prior to her appointment as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health by Governor Charlie Baker in 2015, Dr. Bharel was the chief medical officer for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. In 2017, during her tenure as commissioner, Massachusetts was named the healthiest state in the nation by America’s Health Rankings Annual Report.

Dr. Bharel has drawn from her experience providing front-line care during the COVID-19 crisis. At a March press briefing, she explained, “I understand the need of our health care providers, and I appreciate the urgent needs of our patients and health care professionals.” Dr. Bharel participated in daily briefings with Governor Baker until late March, when she tested positive for COVID-19. She has described the case as mild and continues to work remotely on the crisis facing the state and nation.

Michigan: Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Deputy Director for Health and Chief Medical Executive

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun completed her residency in emergency medicine and continues to practice emergency medicine part-time at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit while serving as Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive. Prior to her appointment by Governor Gretchen Whitmer as Chief Deputy Director for Health for the state of Michigan in 2019, Dr. Khaldun was the director and health officer for the Detroit Health Department and the chief medical officer for the Baltimore City Health Department. She also served as a Fellow in President Obama administration’s Office of Health Reform.

Under Dr. Khaldun’s leadership, Michigan has become one of the first states in the nation to release COVID-19 case data by race, revealing the racial disparities in positive tests, with Black citizens significantly over-represented in those testing positive and dying from coronavirus in Michigan. Dr. Khaldun explained these data, noting, “There is no question that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a more significant impact on marginalized and poorer communities, particularly communities of color.” Dr. Khaldun continues to brief Michigan residents daily, alongside Governor Whitmer, about the state’s efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic.

New Jersey: Judith Persichilli, Commissioner of the Department of Health

Judith Persichilli (R.N., B.S.N, M.A.) is a nurse with extensive experience in health administration. Prior to taking over New Jersey’s Department of Health in 2019, Persichilli served as the Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of University Hospital in Newark, as well as CEO of Catholic Health East in Michigan. In 2013, she was named one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare and, in 2006, she was inducted into the New Jersey State Nurses Association Hall of Honor.

Persichilli participates in daily briefings with Governor Phil Murphy, updating New Jersey and U.S. residents about trends in and actions taken in the state with the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the country. In a recent interview with NJ.com, Persichilli said that she “always wanted to be a nurse,” describing her early experience as an intensive care nurse. She explains that “individuals with clinical knowledge are in the best position to run hospitals.” Today, she runs the state of New Jersey’s medical response to COVID-19 with a combination of clinical and administrative experience.


Pennsylvania: Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health

Dr. Rachel Levine is a Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, in addition to being Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health. Dr. Levine is also the President-Elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Dr. Levine began working for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health in 2015 and was confirmed as its Secretary of Health under Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in 2018. Prior to that, she served as Vice-Chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Dr. Levine has earned statewide and national attention not only for her achievements as Pennsylvania’s top doctor, but also for her openness as one of a still small number of openly transgender public officials in the United States.

In addition to providing daily briefings with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Dr. Levine has been active on Twitter throughout the COVID-19 crisis, providing useful information to Pennsylvania residents. In a recent interview with The Advocate, Dr. Levine explained her approach to leading the fight against COVID-19 in Pennsylvania: “It is very important to stay calm and focused in the midst of emergencies. And you know, that's what I learned in my clinical years during my training and then at my time at Mount Sinai and then Penn State when we would see very ill children and adolescents. In those emergency clinical situations, it's important to stay calm, and so that's what I do now.”


These are just a handful of the women who are contributing their medical expertise to governmental efforts to address COVID-19. Women governors are also leading statewide responses to the virus in 9 states: Alabama (Kay Ivey), Iowa (Kim Reynolds), Kansas (Laura Kelly), Maine (Janet Mills), Michigan (Gretchen Whitmer), New Mexico (Michelle Lujan Grisham), Oregon (Kate Brown), Rhode Island (Gina Raimondo), and South Dakota (Kristi Noem).

At the federal level, Dr. Deborah Birx serves as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, joined also on that task force by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. Dr. Birx is the Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. She is board certified in internal medicine, allergy and immunology, and diagnostic and clinical laboratory immunology. For more than three decades, she had led efforts to address HIV/AIDS in the U.S. and worldwide. She continues to be among the top White House officials briefing the nation about U.S. cases and response. Seema Verma is the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). For over twenty years, she has drawn upon her master’s degree in public health to work in health care administration in both the public and private sectors.

Among the many individuals and groups who are contributing to the nation’s fight against COVID-19, these women in public leadership roles are playing key roles on the front lines.


Statement on the End of the Presidential Primary for Women Candidates


The 2020 presidential campaign began with six women candidates running in the Democratic primary, a record level of participation, including four U.S. Senators, a four-term U.S. Representative, and a successful entrepreneur.

Now there are none.

From the beginning, the 2016 campaign loomed over 2020 and one question was repeated continuously throughout the primary: Can a woman win? It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Women can win. Hillary Clinton showed this in 2016 when she won an overwhelming popular vote victory. Women at all levels, in all kinds of districts, showed this in 2018 when they set records for political representation in the Congress and around the country.

As we’ve discussed throughout this election cycle, women are forced to run dual campaigns: a traditional campaign to show that they are the best person for the job and an additional campaign appealing to political analysts, donors, and the media, as well as voters, to prove that they are “electable” at all.

Someday a woman will be President of the United States. But it won’t happen in an environment where women are hobbled by different, and greater, expectations than their male counterparts.

It’s time to change the way we talk about women candidates.

-Debbie Walsh, Director of the Center for American Women and Politics

Miller, Newman Push Potential Gains for Women in Illinois Congressional Delegation


Congressional primaries were held on Tuesday in Illinois. The Ohio primary was postponed due to a state of emergency. 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:

  • In Illinois’ 3rd district, Marie Newman (D) defeated the incumbent of her own party, Dan Lipinski.
    • This was the first defeat of an incumbent in the 2020 election cycle.
    • She lost to Lipinski in the 2018 primary by 2 points.
    • This seat is currently rated “Solid Democratic” by Cook Political Report, meaning this is a likely gain for Democratic women in the House.
  • Mary Miller (R) won her nomination for a House seat in Illinois’ 15th district. Cook Political Report categorizes this seat as “Solid Republican,” making this a likely gain for Republican women in November.
  • There are woman vs. woman races in three Illinois districts (2nd, 15th, 17th).
  • Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D) won her nomination for the 13th district and will run against incumbent Rodney L. Davis (R).
    • This seat is rated as “Toss Up Republican” by Cook.


U.S. Senate

  • Just 1 (1R) woman – Peggy Hubbard – was on the ballot for the U.S. Senate in Illinois this year. She lost her bid to challenge Democratic incumbent Senator Dick Durbin in November.
  • 2 (2D) women have served in the U.S. Senate from Illinois. Tammy Duckworth (D) is currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Carol Moseley-Braun (D), who was the first Black woman in the U.S. Senate, represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate from 1993-1998.

U.S. House

Women are currently 4 (4D) of 18 members of the Illinois delegation to the U.S. House.

Women are 14 of 34 (41.2%) major-party nominees for U.S. House in Illinois, including 8 of 17 (47.1%) Democrats and 6 of 17 (35.3%) Republicans. A total of 9 women (6D, 3R) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their bid for a U.S. House nomination.

  • All 4 (4D) of the current incumbent women are running for re-election and each will be nominees in November. Robin Kelly (IL-02), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) are strongly favored for re-election according to the Cook Political Report. Cook categorizes Freshman Representative Lauren Underwood’s (IL-14) seat as “Toss Up Democratic,” making it the only Illinois race with an incumbent Democratic woman currently deemed competitive.
  • Of the 6 (6D) women running as challengers to members of their own party in Illinois primaries, 1 (1D) – Marie Newman – was successful in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district. Newman, who previously challenged incumbent Representative Dan Lipinski (D) in 2018 and lost by just 2 points, won this year to become the first candidate to defeat an incumbent this election cycle. The general election in IL-03 is now an open seat race.
  • 2 (1D, 1R) women are nominees for the other open U.S. House seat in Illinois’ 15th congressional district. In a district that strongly favors Republicans, Mary Miller (R) is favored to win against Erika Weaver (D). Miller’s nomination and strong chances to win in November position her as a likely pick-up for Republican women in the House in 2021.
  • 8 (3D, 5R) women candidates were nominated to challenge U.S. House incumbents from Illinois in November. Only 2 (1D, 1R) are running in contests currently deemed competitive by Cook Political Report. Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D), who was the Democratic nominee for the same seat in 2018, will challenge Republican incumbent Representative Rodney L. Davis (R) in Illinois’ 13th congressional district, which is currently rated as “Toss Up Republican” by Cook. Dirksen Londrigan lost to Davis in 2018 by less than one point. 2018 gubernatorial primary candidate Jeanne Ives (R) is the Republican nominee for Illinois’ 6th congressional district and will challenge incumbent Democratic Sean Casten in a seat currently rated “Lean Democratic.”
  • There are three woman vs. woman races in Illinois’ 2nd, 15th, and 17th congressional districts. Republican women nominees will challenge Democratic women incumbents in Illinois’ 3rd (Democratic incumbent Robin Kelly v. Republican challenger Theresa Raborn) and 17th (Democratic incumbent Cheri Bustos v. Republican challenger Esther Joy King), with both Democratic incumbents favored to win. In Illinois’ 15th congressional district, Mary Miller (R) and Erika Weaver (D) will compete for an open seat that strongly favors Miller.

Of the 14 (8D, 6R) women who are major-party nominees for the U.S. House in Illinois, 5 (3D, 2R) are women of color. Erika Weaver (D, IL-15), Lauren Underwood (D, IL-14), Robin Kelly (D, IL-2), and Philanise White (R, IL-1) all identify as Black women. Valerie Ramirez Makherjee (R, IL-10) identifies as both Hispanic and White.

There are no statewide executive elections in Illinois this year.

The Current State of Republican Women and What Might Happen in 2020


The most-told story of the 2018 mid-term elections was the historic gains made by women across different levels of office and nationwide. However, these gains were not made equally across party lines. In fact, the story of 2018 for Republican women was actually quite bleak, particularly in light of the overall historic nature of the election year. As a result of the 2018 election, the number of Republican women dropped in the U.S. House, in statewide elected executive offices, and in state legislatures. The number of Republican women serving in the U.S. House today (13) is the same as it was in 1990. Party differences were evident earlier in the process, too; while the number of Democratic women running increased by 100% from 2016 to 2018, the number of Republican women only increased by just 26.3%. These facts should trouble Republican leadership and have elicited calls to action from Republican women in leadership positions. They also beg the question: will this downward trajectory for Republican women continue or not in election 2020?

With the 2020 primary season in full swing, I take inventory of trends in Republican women running for the U.S. House over the last 30 years, noting particularly how things have progressed in the last few elections and where Republican women might be headed in 2020.

What are the long-term trends?

According to CAWP’s historical data, the number of Republican women candidates has risen over the last 30 years, although not at the same rate as Democratic women. The number of Democratic women running for office has consistently been higher than that of Republican women. In fact, 2010, a particularly strong year for Republicans, was the only year in which the party gap in women candidates nearly closed. However, after 2010, Republican women candidacies once again dipped before increasingly modestly in 2018.


When we take a look at the number of women actually elected to House, we see that there is even more stagnation in actual representation by Republican women. The number of Republican women in the House is at the lowest it’s been since the early 1990s, at the same time that the number of Democratic women in the House is at an all-time high. This is consistent with a larger trend- the number of Democratic women has been climbing steadily with a few exceptions, while the number of Republican women has seen few significant gains over the past thirty years.


What happened in 2018?

A record number of women ran for and won office in 2018. However, the lion’s share of this success was enjoyed by Democratic women. The difference in the number of Republican women running in comparison to Democratic women was staggering. The number of filed Democratic candidates was nearly triple the number of Republican candidates.

Not only did more Democratic women run for the House, but they also won at higher rates than Republican women. Only a quarter of all Republican women nominees were successful in their bid for office in comparison to over half of Democratic women. Among non-incumbents only, 21.3% of Democratic women won their general election race, whereas only 2.9% of Republican women were successful in November. Even Republican women incumbents had less success maintaining their seats than incumbent men and Democrats.


What might happen in 2020?

After 2018, Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY) referred to the results of the mid-term election as a “wake up call.” Motivated by the fact that the vast majority of incoming Republicans were men, Stefanik launched her political action committee, E-PAC, to recruit women and help them win. Republican women leaders like Stefanik are clearly hoping to shift the imbalance in the U.S. House. Looking at the numbers of filed and likely women candidates for the U.S. House as of March 11th, there is an increase in the number of Republican women running between 2018 and 2020; today’s number is already double the number of total Republican women candidates who filed for the U.S. House in 2016. If the likely candidates on our list end up filing, 2020 will represent the year with the highest number of Republican women running for the House in the 30 years that CAWP has been collecting this data. Based on other CAWP analyses from the start of this year’s congressional primary cycle, the partisan gap in women’s candidacies also appears likely to close slightly this year.

Can we take away any lessons from Super Tuesday?

But this progress for Republican women should be considered with some caveats. First, the non-majority party (in 2020, Republicans in the House) is likely to see more candidates run for office to oppose incumbents. We saw this contribute to Democratic women’s candidacies in 2018 and this helps to explain the high number of Republican women challengers running in 2020. Although there has been an uptick in the number of democratic primary challengers, potential candidates are generally less likely to challenge an incumbent in the primary. Second, we don’t know how these Republican women candidates will fare well in their primaries, especially in light of past evidence that Republican women have struggled at this stage.

An early test of the latter consideration came in the first congressional primaries of the 2020 election season. On Super Tuesday (March 3, 2020), congressional primaries were held in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. Given that many races in California are too close to call, I will restrict the present analyses to the other Super Tuesday states. Out of the 37 non-incumbent Republican women who ran for the U.S. House on Super Tuesday, 29.7% either won their race or advanced to a runoff election. In comparison, 58.5% of the 41 Democratic non-incumbents advanced to the general election or runoff. More specifically, Democratic women fared better in open seat primaries, with 50% of candidates either winning their primary or advancing to a runoff in comparison to only 19% of Republican women.

Beyond basic win rate calculations, we should consider the likelihood of gains for Republican women who have advanced as general election nominees. Out of the 5 non-incumbent Republican women who won on Super Tuesday (excluding California), 3 will be running in districts rated as “Solid Democrat” by the Cook Political Report, 1 in a “Lean Democratic” district, and 1 in a “Toss Up Republican” district. Eleven of the 16 Democratic non-incumbent nominees selected on Super Tuesday face similarly challenging conditions. running in “Solid Republican” districts, and 2 more are nominees in “Lean” or “Likely” Republican districts. However, 3 Democratic nominees are running in “Likely” or “Lean” Democratic districts, indicating they are more likely than others to win in November.

Looking beyond the states in which primaries have already taken place (Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, Texas, and Mississippi) and instead at total filed women candidates in states with upcoming primaries where the filing deadline has already passed (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia), 21 Republican women are running as potential general election challengers and 18 (86%) of them are running in districts that the Cook Political Report categorizes as either “Solid Democrat” or “Likely Democrat.” The other 3 are running in either “Lean Democrat” or “Toss Up Democrat” districts. There are also 2 non-incumbent women challenging incumbents of their own party in the primary in “Solid Republican” districts. In most cases, it is very difficult for a candidate to beat an incumbent of their own party in a primary election. Of the 7 Republican women running for 3 different open seat contests, only 1 (14%) is running in a district (IL-15) that is rated as “Solid Republican” by Cook. Looking at the Cook Ratings by district level is also illuminating. In the 20 districts in which there are challengers or open seat candidates, only 1 is rated as “Solid Republican” and 1 “Lean Republican.” This suggests that even if Republican women are extremely successful in their primary bids, gains are still likely to be small.

In terms of Democratic women candidates, 25 of the 30 (83%) women running as potential challengers are running in districts that the Cook Political Report categorizes as “Solid Republican.” Three challengers are running in “Lean Republican” districts and two in “Toss Up Republican” districts. Fifteen Democratic women are challenging incumbents of their own party in the primary. Of the 13 Democratic women running for 4 different open seat contests, 9 (69%) are running for 2 seats that are rated as “Solid Democrat.” One open seat candidate is running in a “Solid Republican” district and 3 are running in a “Lean Republican” district. It is also important to highlight the sheer number of filed Democratic women incumbents (11) verses Republican women incumbents (2). In sum, Republican and Democratic challengers face similarly difficult electoral contexts, although Democratic women seem better poised for general election success if they advance as nominees in open seat contests.

So yes, the most current 2020 data reveals a notable increase in Republican women candidates for the U.S. House. As far as the motivation for these candidates or the impetus for the increase, that is difficult to discern. Potential explanations are that this could be a response to the success of Democratic women in 2018, a product of the organizing efforts of organizers like incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik, or recruitment efforts by the party. An initial peek at the results from Super Tuesday reveals that Republican women were not particularly successful in their primary bids, at least compared to Democratic women. Furthermore, a deep dive into the political landscape where Republican women are running reveals the additional hurdle of generally unfavorable electoral context in the general election. As far as 2020 being “the year of the Republican women,” the early data casts doubt on that.


A Woman Running Mate is Just a Start


Joe Biden made news in last night’s Democratic debate for stating definitively that he would choose a woman as his running mate if he wins his party’s presidential nomination. While leaving himself an out, Bernie Sanders said he would “in all likelihood” choose a woman as well. The prospect of a mixed-gender ticket is more notable than it should be in 2020. Four years ago and again in recent months, there was talk of the possibility of an all-woman presidential ticket. But with no viable woman candidates remaining in contention for the presidential nomination, the number two slot is now the only chance for a woman to be on a major-party ticket.

And while it seems to many that gender balance on a presidential ticket should not be exceptional, it is. All-male tickets have been the norm in presidential politics for over 200 years. Only three women have ever appeared on major-party presidential tickets, with two as vice presidential running mates to male nominees. In the past 100 years, just 3 of 100 names on major-party presidential tickets have been women. 

The first woman on a major-party presidential ballot was Geraldine Ferraro, who Democratic nominee Walter Mondale selected as his running mate in 1984. Ferraro’s selection was the result of feminist activism and lobbying, in which organizations like the National Organization for Woman (NOW) sought to leverage the power of women’s votes – especially the gender gap that had first emerged in the 1980 election – to pressure the Democratic Party to address women’s demands. Those demands were not limited to a woman on the ticket. As Susan Carroll details in a chapter about this period, “Over the course of discussions among feminist activists and organizational leaders, the idea emerged to push for the selection of a woman as a vice-presidential candidate in 1984 as ‘an attention-getting device’ to build on the momentum generated by the gender gap and ‘keep women’s issues on the front burner of American politics and that meant the front pages of the newspapers and on the evening TV news shows.’“

In recent weeks, a coalition of 11 women’s organizations made a similar case to 2020 presidential candidates. In their petition, they called upon all presidential candidates to not only select a woman for vice president, but to commit to gender parity, as well as racial and religious representation, in presidential appointments. But again, their case does not solely rest on women’s descriptive presence; they argue that women’s descriptive representation will yield substantively positive results for women. The organizations write, “We know that the only way to guarantee that women’s issues stay on the agenda is if women are the ones setting it.”

Decades of research on the impact of women officeholders backs the claim that women’s inclusion alters agendas and priorities in ways that benefit women in the electorate. Still, today’s presidential candidates should not put the onus on a woman running mate to carry the water in outreach to women and/or in applying gender and intersectional lenses to policy and politics. The white men who will top presidential tickets in 2020 need to do more than tapping women to make clear that they not only understand the distinct experiences, needs, and demands of women, but will value and integrate them into their policy plans and priorities. They will also need to demonstrate their capacity to recognize and address the full diversity among women, and thus the diversity of women’s needs and demands.

It is hard to know what the effects of a woman vice presidential nominee on the Democratic presidential ticket in 2020 will be. What we do know is that it is unlikely to influence many votes on Election Day. Both men and women voters are guided much more by party affiliation than any other factor in casting their ballots. A CNN/ORC poll in 2016 revealed, for example, that vice presidential picks were especially unimportant to voters’ decision-making; 86% of registered voters said it would make no difference to their vote if Hillary Clinton chose a female running mate and 89% of registered voters said Trump’s selection of a woman running mate would make no difference in their decision to back him or not. Similarly, historical precedent proves prescient here; neither the Democratic selection of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 nor the addition of Sarah Palin to the 2008 GOP ticket brought a discernable influx of unexpected or unlikely voters to their camps. Beyond gender, these findings reflect the reality that voters are most concerned about the top of the ticket and less concerned about who is VP - woman or man. 

This does not mean that putting a woman on the ticket will not matter at all, particularly in a political environment where issues of gender equality are especially salient and in a year when either Democratic candidate would become the oldest president elected if successful in November. The presence of a woman on a presidential ticket could mobilize some voters, or at least be among a set of factors that influence their behavior. While the Mondale-Ferraro ticket was defeated at the ballot box in 1984, feminist leaders and activists claimed Ferraro’s selection was a success. For example, as Carroll details, Gloria Steinem claimed that Ferraro’s candidacy was “a substantial net plus in activism,” with Ferraro raising $4 million for the ticket and attracting 10,000 volunteers. Other leaders pointed to the registration of 1.8 million new women voters in advance of the 1984 election as evidence that having a woman on the presidential ticket mattered. Scholars David Campbell and Christina Wolbrecht suggest that the positive impact of Ferraro’s candidacy may have extended to young women, finding that adolescent girls became significantly more likely to express an interest in political activities (e.g. writing to public officials, giving money to a political campaign, or working in a political campaign) in the year after Ferraro was on the ticket.

However, Sarah Palin’s addition to the 2008 Republican presidential ticket did not seem to have a similarly positive effect on young women’s political engagement, consistent with research showing that the mobilizing effect of women candidates is conditional on political context and partisan cues.  Moreover, there is reason to believe that the positive effects of adding a woman vice presidential nominee in 2020 – when many feel that the time for a woman president is overdue – might vary from nearly four decades ago. Concerns that this year’s addition of a woman is simply a consolation prize for not winning the ticket’s top spot, beliefs that a gender-balanced ticket is overdue, and demands that the candidates do more than select a woman to demonstrate competency on gender equity are likely to depress the enthusiasm that emerges as a direct result of the selection of a woman VP.

Finally, which woman is selected as a vice presidential nominee in 2020 will likely matter more than the fact that a woman is on the ticket. Voters – women and men alike – will be concerned about the experience, perspective, and priorities of potential woman running mates, in addition to their ability (if any) to mobilize and attract particular groups of voters in a general election contest against Donald Trump. Candidates should be careful not to assume uniformity in women’s appeal as candidates or in women’s perspectives and priorities as voters. Even in 1984, a poll commissioned by the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) found that a woman’s positions on issues and her experience were more important to voters than the fact that she was a woman. Carroll cites Florence R. Skelly, president of the firm that conducted the poll, who concluded, “This study shows they can’t just name to that ticket and have it work... Even with sisterhood and the gender gap, you can’t automatically attract women’s votes with a woman candidate.” Biden and Sanders would be smart to heed the same caution in 2020. Selecting a woman vice presidential nominee is a minimum, not solitary, step toward making good on a commitment to gender equity in the next presidential administration.

To see more women in leadership, shift the burden to men.

Just over a week ago, Elizabeth Warren, the last viable woman candidate for president, suspended her campaign. The collective gut punch to women was palpable. Few were naïve enough to think that a woman president, or even a woman presidential nominee, was inevitable in 2020. But more than a decade after Hillary Clinton suspended her 2008 campaign for president by stating that there were 18 million new cracks in the presidential glass ceiling “and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time,” women in 2020 are left wondering if the path has really been any easier for women in presidential politics.

In 2016, President Barack Obama noted, "There has never been a man or a woman, not me, not Bill, nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” But qualifications are not always enough for presidential candidates. For Clinton, her qualifications were the very thing that often yielded criticisms that she was too “establishment,” not “authentic” enough, and – as is the dilemma often facing high-achieving women – unlikeable. In 2020, few could question Elizabeth Warren’s intellect and resume as preparing her well for the presidency. Like Clinton, Warren is an exceptionally smart woman. But there was more – she came closest to meeting the many demands of many Clinton skeptics; Warren was more progressive, more engaging and charismatic, less “establishment,” and arguably more “authentic” – in the sense that few could challenge the consistency of her beliefs and priorities – than Clinton.

That makes Warren’s loss to two white men – neither of whom check all of these boxes – all the more frustrating for two reasons. First, it raises doubts that there is any woman candidate that will be able to clear the higher bar that women face en route to winning the presidency. And second, it reinforces the experiences that many women have had themselves; they often work twice as hard to reach the same results as white men. Sometimes they work harder but still fall short due to gender biases long baked into the system. By illuminating the stubbornness of American political institutions, Warren's loss is a reminder that the burden on women to do more to achieve the same is persistent and resistant to change. That feels exhausting. 

This frustration and exhaustion is not new. Women have navigated through it time and again in American politics to push for and achieve progress. They have never thrown in the towel before, and, as Warren urged in her interview last week, they will persist. What's important in this moment is that women don't feel the weight is only on their shoulders. Men need to play a more vocal and active role in both calling out bias and pushing for a politics – especially a presidential politics – where men and women are held to the same standards and where women's leadership is as equally valued as men's. 

Here’s another way to think of it: women should not have to persist within institutions built for, by, and to the advantage of men. Disrupting the balance of gender power within these institutions is necessary, and that work cannot only fall to women. In the aftermath of Warren’s departure, MSNBC commentator Zerlina Maxwell stated this especially plainly. She said, “I would like more men to be vocal about the fact that they want to see women in positions of leadership.” That’s a start. But voters – men and women alike – also play an enormously important role in both what we demand of candidates and what we accept as qualifications and credentials for the job. Rejecting masculinity as the standard by which fitness for presidential office is measured would help to create an environment in which traits, expertise, and experiences more often associated with women are equally valued as merits of presidential contenders.

Voters can also perpetuate or confront biases in ourselves and in others. In 2020, the perpetuation of the electability myth for women in presidential politics reinforced an advantage for men. Despite efforts by candidates and experts to debunk it, this bias placed an additional burden on the women running for president. But they should not be alone in addressing the burden of gender bias. In fact, those most effective in confronting gender bias in others are what social psychologists call non-targets – those who aren’t hurt by this bias and thus cannot be disregarded as complaining or self-interested. That means we’re looking especially at white men to intervene and admonish gender bias in how people evaluate and assess candidates.      

Male candidates also play an important role in creating new conditions for candidate success. For white men especially, this means recognizing the ways in which their gender and race have constrained their experiences and understanding of what’s at stake in politics and policy instead of assuming that these identities make them most fit to lead. We saw some examples of this in the 2020 Democratic primary race. When Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) told CNN that he approached his presidential candidacy “with humility” because he had “never been a woman talked over in a meeting,” he at least recognized the danger of women’s exclusion from powerful positions. Likewise, after Beto O’Rourke was admonished for joking that his wife Amy was raising his three children “sometimes with [his] help,” his response evidenced the value of men’s reflection on gender-biased institutions. He apologized by noting, “[it] should have also been a moment for me to acknowledge that [women’s bearing the caregiving burden] is far too often the case, not just in politics, but just in life in general,” adding, “I hope as I have been in some instances part of the problem, I can also be part of the solution.”

These examples of gender disruption are not alone going to lead to the types of big structural changes that we need in American political institutions in order to upend the gender norms and expectations that have put hurdles in women's path to success at and below the presidential level. But they are a place to start, particularly for men and at a moment when women are especially fatigued by persisting. They should also serve as an important reminder that the gender story of the 2020 presidential election is not over because the race is down to three men (Biden, Sanders, and Trump). These men will play a key role in either reinforcing or rejecting the dominance of masculinity in presidential politics in the rhetoric and imagery they use, the tactics they adopt, the traits they tout, and the prioritization and perspective they bring to policy debates. Rejecting masculine dominance and rethinking the credentials, experiences, and perspectives we value in presidential politics are not only important for creating institutional change. They are also important steps to creating the conditions where more women can run and win…perhaps with a bit more ease the next time around.

Despite Primary Victories, Women Unlikely to Make Gains in Mississippi Congressional Delegation


Congressional primaries were held on Tuesday in Mississippi. 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:

  • Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi, is likely to win re-election to a full term in the U.S. Senate this year.
  • While 2 (2D) women won major-party nominations in U.S. House contests, they are running as challengers in districts where their incumbent opponents are strongly favored to win. If that happens, Mississippi will remain a state that has never sent a woman to the U.S. House.



U.S. Senate

Just one woman has served in the Senate from Mississippi: current Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R). She was appointed to fill a vacancy caused by a resignation and was subsequently elected in a special election on 11/27/18. Hyde-Smith is also the only woman ever elected to Congress from the state of Mississippi.

  • Just 1 (1R) woman – Cindy Hyde-Smith – was on the ballot for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi this year. She is the incumbent senator and ran in an uncontested primary.
  • Hyde-Smith will face Democratic nominee Mike Espy in the general election. This will be a rematch of the special election contest she won in to become the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi. The race is currently rated as “likely Republican” by Cook Political Report.

U.S. House

No woman has ever been elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi and that is unlikely to change in 2020.

Women candidates have secured 2 out of 7 (28.6%) major-party nominations for U.S. House seats decided in Mississippi on March 10th. Women are 2 of 3 (66.7%) Democratic nominees for the U.S. House and 0 of 4 (0%) Republican nominees for the U.S. House in Mississippi. Of the 2 (2R) candidates advancing to the runoff elections, 0 are women. 2 (2D) women House candidates were unsuccessful in their bid for the nomination.

  • Antonia Eliason (D) was unopposed in her bid for the Democratic nomination in Mississippi’s 1st congressional district. She will run as a challenger against incumbent Republican Trent Kelly in the general election in which Kelly is strongly favored to win, according to Cook Political Report.
  • Dorothy “Dot” Benford won the Democratic nomination in a woman v. woman primary in  Mississippi’s 3rd district. She will run as a challenger against incumbent Republican Michael Guest in the general election in which Guest is strongly favored to win, according to Cook Political Report.

There are no statewide executive elections in Mississippi this year.