More women are running for Congress than ever before. According to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University, 583 women have filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020. So far, 243 women have won their primary elections, another record high. While fewer female Democrats have won their primary elections this cycle than in 2018 – 169 compared to 182 – 74 Republican women have won their primary elections, shattering the previous record of 53. Additionally a record number of women of color, 267, are running for Congress this election cycle.
This increase in female candidates has been attributed to a rise in Republican women running for office. While 2018 was labeled the “Year of the Woman,” with a record number of Democratic women becoming representatives, the number of female Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives decreased. Following these election results, a number of political action committees (PACs) focused on electing Republican women were created or received an increase in requests for assistance. These organizations have focused on supporting female candidates in primary elections, as studies show this is where Republican women face the most difficulty due to “the ideological biases of voters” and a lack of party support. Republican women running for Congress have cited the results of the 2018 elections, as well as their feelings that the party no longer has representatives who share their values, as their reasons for running.
The number of women of color running for Congress has also increased – with 276 women of color running in 2020 compared to 179 in 2018. Overall, 130 Black, 75 Latina, 41 Asian or Pacific Islander, 16 Middle Eastern or North African, and 18 Native American women are running as Congressional candidates for a major party. While the Democratic party still has a larger number of female candidates of color, both parties have seen the diversity of their candidates increase this election cycle. In total, 162 Democratic and 86 Republican women of color have filed to run for Congress this year.
However, these numbers do not guarantee that there will be more women in the U.S. House of Representatives next year. While a record number of Republican women have won their primary elections, many of these women will face tough general elections and many retiring female Republican representatives have seen white men win the nomination to take their place. Many Democratic female representatives face tough elections in battleground states. The numbers do indicate a promising trend in the number of women entering politics. The director of CAWP, Debbie Walsh, stated that “In 2020, we’re surpassing the records of just two years ago, an encouraging sign that we could be entering a new era of women’s political participation…But electoral progress for women should be the norm, not the exception, in a political system where women remain significantly underrepresented as officeholders.”
Sources: Vox 8/14/20; Vox 5/27/20; Forbes 8/6/20; CAWP 8/7/20; WUSA9 7/29/20