GOP Women Fuel House Gains

Republican women flip six seats

Rep. Elise Stefanik / YouTube Screenshot
November 4, 2020

More than 20 Republican women are headed to the House, including six who flipped seats to the GOP on election night.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who spearheaded the post-2018 push to recruit women candidates, called Tuesday night's results a "smashing success" and a sign that Democrats do not have a monopoly over women's votes.

"It was the night of Republican women," Stefanik told the Washington Free Beacon. "Despite the media and the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] issuing demeaning comments and saying it wasn't possible, look at the outcome. We are going to have incredible women who have earned this victory themselves in these districts in the next Congress."

Republicans may break their previous record of 25 Republican congresswomen in the House, a stunning turnaround for a party that worked to improve its recruitment among minorities and women after it lost control of the lower chamber in 2018. Women played a major role in defeating several high-profile House Democrats. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American former TV anchor for Telemundo, defeated Florida Democrat Donna Shalala, a former Clinton White House official. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma and Yvette Herrell of New Mexico also won by ousting freshman Democrats.

The GOP's congressional gains surprised election experts and national Democrats alike, many of whom saw 2020 as an opportunity for Democrats to consolidate control of the lower chamber. Instead, GOP women fueled a Republican offensive that chipped away at Democratic control of the House, winning six out of the seven races that flipped House seats to Republican control. Although a GOP takeover of the lower chamber remains unlikely, the series of stinging defeats shocked House Democrats, prompting one of them to call it a "dumpster fire."

In addition to success in the House, Republican women running for Senate also had a promising night. Four out of five Republican women senators running for reelection—including top Democratic targets Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Joni Ernst (Iowa)—kept their seats and will be joined by Wyoming Senate candidate Cynthia Lummis in the next Congress. Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler also advanced to the state's runoff, which will be held in January.

Conservative activists moved to bolster female candidates following the party's 2018 losses. The Winning for Women Action Fund, created in the wake of the 2018 midterms with the goal of advancing Republican women candidates, said Tuesday's success can be attributed to strong recruitment at the local and national level.

"Many of the Democrat women elected last cycle were out of touch with their districts," spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said. "Republican women stepped up to challenge them like never before and offered voters a real voice. As a result, Republican women across the country are making historic gains."

The victories doubled the number of pro-life female lawmakers in Congress, according to a count by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. The organization, which included races that have yet to be formally called, said that 13 pro-life women won election to the lower chamber and all 11 pro-life female representatives successfully defended their seat. The ascension of pro-life women stands in stark contrast to the 2018 election, which propelled pro-abortion Democrats to power.

"We expect when all votes are counted and the races are called, we will have a record number of pro-life women serving in the next Congress," Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. "These gains are a repudiation of abortion extremism and further evidence that life is a winning issue in politics."

Stefanik cited three reasons for the success of the Republican women strategy—issuing a vigorous "call to action" to inspire candidates to run, guiding candidates through the primaries, and helping their campaigns build up the necessary infrastructure to attract big-name endorsements and donations. She also said the victory of several female Democrats in 2018 fired up many Republican women to run, as they saw that the Democratic establishment did not represent the views of all women.

"One interesting theme in my early conversations with these women candidates on the Republican side is that [they said] the party of Nancy Pelosi does not represent the vast majority of women in America," Stefanik said. "The Democratic Party does not have a monopoly on women candidates or women voters."