Republican women made their mark Tuesday night, as four of them beat democrat incumbents in tightly contested Congressional races.
Maria Elvira Salazar took out Donna Shalala in Florida. Michelle Fishbach defeated Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson, who had held the seat since 1991. Stephanie Bice topped Kendra Thorn to turn Oklahoma’s lone democrat seat back to Republican. Nancy Mace beat Joe Cunningham in South Carolina.
If Collin Peterson sounds familiar, it’s because he was one of the few democrats who broke from his party to vote against the Trump impeachment scam. His district comprised of a very large rural area of Minnesota, and his last few elections have been very close.
Joe Cunningham was a freshman rep, and had been on the endangered list ever since he won his election two years ago, as his district swung for Trump in 2016. The seat had long been held by Republicans, and was previously filled by now-Senator Tim Scott. Mace’s victory leaves James Clyburn as the lone democrat from South Carolina.
As of this writing, democrats were holding onto a slim lead of 181-174 House seats, with many more too close to call.
On a good election night for the party, they could see as many as two dozen women win their races, bringing them back to their pre-2018 levels. In the worst-case scenario, House Republicans would still grow their female ranks by one or two.
More than that, though, the GOP — which has long shunned identity politics, at least when it comes to gender — has experienced a real attitude and cultural shift around electing more women to Congress, according to interviews with over a dozen lawmakers, candidates, operatives and aides. Women are stepping up to run, citing their gender as an asset and answering the siren sounded by party leaders — even as President Donald Trump remains divisive among women of both parties.
“The 2018 cycle was a motivating factor,” said retiring Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana, one of just 13 Republican women in the House and head of recruitment efforts for the party’s campaign arm. “Even though we had been recruiting and helping women candidates, we realized we did need to shift some strategy and do far more.”
And so far, the initiative has paid off: 227 Republican women filed to run for the House this cycle and 94 of them won primaries, shattering past records on both fronts. Previously, the highest number of Republican women to run for the House was 130, while the highest number of GOP women to win primaries was 53, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
“I’m honored and proud to help change the discussion,” said Diana Harshbarger, a pharmacist who is almost certainly joining Congress next year after beating out several male primary opponents in a deep red seat in Tennessee. “Conservative Republican women are alive and well and I hope I can be an inspiration.”