Two years after Democrats celebrated another “Year of the Woman,” Republicans are having a historic moment of their own.
House Republicans are poised to add at least 13 women — if not more — to their depleted ranks next year after a record-breaking recruitment effort.
Several races involving female GOP candidates are still too close to call. But when all the votes are tallied, Republicans could count as many as 33 women in their conference, a new record for the party. They’re already on track to make history: previously, the highest number of GOP women in a freshman class was nine.
“The story of the night is the success of Republican women at the ballot box,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who launched a PAC dedicated solely to electing more GOP women. “For all these naysayers, we have proven that strong, Republican women are the best candidates to put on the ballot.”
Most notably, female GOP candidates won in some of the toughest races in the country and have been responsible for flipping six of seven Democratic seats thus far.
That includes prized recruits such as Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida, a former broadcast journalist for Telemundo; Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota, a former lieutenant governor and the first female president of the state’s Senate; state Sen. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma; state Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina; real estate agent and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico; and state Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa.
Other candidates with races still too close to call, but where female GOP candidates are leading, include Claudia Tenney and Nicole Malliotakis in New York, Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa and Young Kim in California.
“We elected a great number of Republican women to Congress this cycle and I’m proud of that. I’ve made acquaintance with a number of those great women and I look forward to working with them,” Hinson told reporters Wednesday, specifically highlighting Salazar. “I think there are a lot of bright spots around the country.”
Republican women continue to lag far behind their counterparts in the House; 88 women serve in the Democratic caucus.
Still, Republicans say the success of GOP women in key swing districts should serve as a roadmap for how to win back the House in 2022. Under President Donald Trump, the party’s standing has suffered in the suburbs. But the GOP now sees a recipe for success in these areas, although those same Republican women could face competitive re-election races in the next midterms.
“Republican women are majority makers,” said Stefanik, “and we have a model that’s worked.”
In some districts, they ran well ahead of Trump. That was certainly the case in south Florida where Salazar ousted Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points.
“We flipped the script on Democrats from what they did two years ago,” added Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who is running unopposed to lead the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are also set to improve their diversity next year, following the retirement of Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, the party’s lone Black Republican. The new crop of House Republican freshmen will likely have somewhere between six to nine people of color, including Byron Donalds of Florida, a Black businessman and former state representative.
Despite projections that Democrats could pad their majority by 10 or more seats, the GOP so far have seen a net gain, in part because of the incoming women and minorities.
Tuesday’s election stunner comes in the wake of 2018, which was a real low point for the party. That year, House Republicans lost their majority and 10 of their 23 female lawmakers. Making matters worse, two GOP women decided to retire this cycle.
But National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), as well as outside groups such as Stefanik’s E-PAC and Winning for Women, made closing the gender gap a top priority this cycle. Stefanik credited top party leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), for getting involved in the effort early on.
“The Republican coalition is bigger, more diverse, and more energetic than ever before,” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
McCarthy and other GOP leaders moved quickly Wednesday to secure their leadership posts for next year, using the party’s successes with women and minority candidates to bolster their argument. And while Stefanik has been floated for a leadership role in the past, she said she has no interest in running for leadership at the moment.
Heading into the election, House Republicans already knew they would gain at least five women who won primaries in solidly red districts, including controversial candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has embraced QAnon conspiracy theories and espoused racist views. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) — who was high on the Democrats’ target list — managed to pull out a win in her suburban district.
Republicans boast that they’re on track to restore their ranks beyond their 2018 levels — a huge accomplishment in a tough political environment for the GOP.
More than that, there’s been a real attitude and cultural shift in the party around electing more women, according to lawmakers, operatives and aides, which could set the party up for even more success in 2022.
“That was the battle I fought this cycle. I was very public about how we needed to do better,” Stefanik said. “It was a huge sea change.”
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