Election 2010: Women's Gains and Losses

7 years ago

For months working up to yesterday's Midterm election races, headline after headline sported some version of "year of the woman" or "year of the GOP woman" or "Dem women face losses due to year of the GOP woman" or "Mama Grizzlies growl through year of the woman" or...you get the idea.

So how did women do?

Quick hits (information based on data from the Center for American Women in Politics)

U.S. Senate:

Neither the baseline number (17 total women in 2010, 15-17 in 2011) nor the balance of left and right (13 Ds, 4 Rs in 2010) will swing much. However, self-funders for the Senate, Linda McMahon (R-CT) and Carly Fiorina (R-CA) both lost. And two tea party favorits, Sharron Angle (R-NV) and Christine O'Donnell (R-DE) also lost.

U.S. House:

The preliminary guess is that the House total from 2010 (73) will only decline by three once the undecideds are called. However, the estimate right now shows a loss of nine Democratic women (from 56 down to 47) and a gain in GOP women (from 17 up to 23). One of the newcomers will be one of the few female GOP Young Guns, Kristi Noem for South Dakota's at-large seat.


There's actually no net change -- there were six women governors in 2010 and there will be six in 2011. The Democrat/Republican split will go from three and three, to four Republicans and two Democrats (both incumbents). The important thing to note here is that there were 37 governorships up for grabs this year and yet in the general election, only eight of those contests had women in them (albeit two of those were women v. women matchups). Still, if women are looking to make gains and get executive experience as they head to obliterate the White House glass ceiling, they need to field more candidates at this level.

For the specifics, we turn to the Rutgers' Center for American Women in Politics (open the pdf at that status update):

U.S. House

In 2010, there were 73 women (56 Democrats, 17 Republicans)

In 2011, CAWP states that there will be at least 70 women (47 Democrats 23 Republicans), with another four women (two from each party) still in races that have yet to be called.  Of those, at least 12 new women (4 Democrats, 8 Republicans) will enter the House.

U.S. Senate

In 2010, there were 17 women (13 Democrats, 4 Republicans)

In 2011, depending on outcomes in Alaska and Washington, there will be a total of 15-17 women (11 or 12 Democrats, 4 or 5 Republicans)


In 2010, six women serve as governor (3 Democrats, 3 Republicans).

LEXINGTON, SC - NOVEMBER 3: South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley speaks to voters at Hudson's Smokehouse on November 3, 2010 in Lexington, South Carolina.The election of Haley makes her the first Indian-American governor of South Carolina when she beat incumbent Democrat Vincent Sheheen. (Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images)

In 2011, the total number of women governors will be six. Of those six, 2 are Democrats, 4 are Republicans and three of the Republicans are new governors (Jan Brewer being the exception as having been re-elected). Those three new governors are all first female governor for their states (Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Mary Fallin in Oklahhoma and Nikki Haley in South Carolina). Martinez is the first-ever female Hispanic governor in the country, and Haley is the first-ever Indian American female governor in the country. Women's eNews wrote more extensively about it this morning here.

Next, let's look at numbers from the National Conference of State Legislatures. This information is critical for many reasons but not the least of which is related to how many states' chambers flipped from blue to red last night. Katie Ziegler at NCSL's Women's Legislative Network cautions that these numbers are only preliminary due to the number of races yet to be decided. However, what we still can see easily is a very steep decline in the total number of women in the 50 state legislatures (more than 100), a very big drop in the number of Democratic women officeholders (more than 200) and a large increase in the number of Republican women officeholders (more than 100):

2010                      2011

Total seats:                                    7,382                       7,382

Total women:                                1,808                       1,693

Total Dems:                                   1,263                        1,043

Total GOP                                         529                          633

*minor parties' totals not listed here but can be seen on the NCSL website link above

Bloggers on Women in the 2010 Elections

Bloggers have not been jumping on the "what's it all mean" bandwagon as quickly as we might expect, in part because there are still undecided contests and there's so much data to parse. However, some developing lines:

From RH Reality Check, Election Aftermath

From Lucinda Marshall at the Feminist Peace Network, Who Spiked the tea? Changing the conversation brew starting now

And from Hanna Rosin at Slate, A net loss for women in poltiics

A final note: if you're looking at the numbers and saying, hmm -- well, it doesn't look like it's so bad, the GOP women inched up their numbers at the federal and state level and otherwise the totals are more or less even, think again. Why? Because the number of women who ran was actually a record number (although just barely), because there are several nonpartisan and partisan recruiting and training programs that should be filling the pipelines and because it has taken literally decades to go reach just under 17% at the Congressional and just under 25% at the state legislature level -- while women still comprise more than 50% of the adult population.

Excuse us for feeling like something's gotta give.

Jill Writes Like She Talks

In The Arena: Jill Miller Zimon, Pepper Pike City Council Member

BlogHer is non-partisan but our bloggers aren't. Follow our coverage of the 2010 Midterm Elections.

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