Election On the Hill

Upcoming Elections May Jeopardize the Historic Number of GOP Women Senators

Since 2018, with the swearing-in of senators including Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), the greatest number of Republican women have been serving in the U.S. Senate in the party’s history. However, this historic victory for gender representation in the Republican Party may be in jeopardy come November.

A recent Politico report found that of the nine Republican women currently serving in the U.S. Senate, four will be in precarious positions in November when votes are cast in the general election. According to Politico, Martha McSally (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) all face competitive upcoming elections. If these incumbent women were to lose their elections, the Republican Party would lose a significant portion of the women in their caucus.

McSally, who was appointed to fill John McCain’s (R-AZ) Senate seat after his death, now faces Democratic opponent Mark Kelly. Recent polls have found that Kelly leads McSally by a 53 percent to 44 percent margin, according to CNBC. Beyond polling, Kelly has raised and spent significantly more money than McSally. According to OpenSecrets, whereas McSally has approximately $10,252,063 on hand, Kelly has $19,706,843. McSally also faces a challenging election because Arizona has recently transitioned from being a staunchly red state to a battleground state.

In Maine, Collins, who has held her Senate seat for 23 years, is trailing her Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon. According to a recent poll, Gideon currently leads Collins by a 46 percent to 42 percent margin. Despite her electoral successes in the past, Collins may be facing a challenging election due to public opinion surrounding her decision to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in spite of allegations of sexual assault. Gideon also has a fundraising advantage over Collins; whereas Gideon has raised approximately $15.2 million, Collins has raised approximately $5.4 million.

Incumbent Ernst will face Theresa Greenfield in what is expected to be a very tight race. A June poll showed that Greenfield led Ernst by a 46 percent to 43 percent margin. Ernst’s approval rating in Iowa has dropped significantly in the past year; however, she performs well with the Republican base in the state. Although President Trump won Iowa by nine points in 2016, Democrats had several victories in the state in 2018.

Loeffler was appointed to fill a retiring incumbent’s Senate seat in Georgia earlier in 2020 and is now competing against both Republican and Democratic opponents. Doug Collins, a Republican Congressman, is challenging Loeffler for the Senate seat and leads Loeffler by two points. Loeffler also faces a Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock, who edges out Loeffler by three points, according to recent polls.

Members of the Republican Party have acknowledged the state of gender representation within the party. Recently, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) called gender representation “a weak spot” for the GOP, but also made note of recent historic gains for Republican women. However, the incumbent president’s recent polling has threatened many Republican-held Senate seats that are up for reelection in November and may erase these gains.

Sources: CNN Politics 11/28/2018; CNBC 1/8/2020, 7/1/2020; Center for American Women and Politics; Politico 7/7/2020; OpenSecrets; NPR 5/5/2020; The Hill 7/6/2020, 6/29/2020; Des Moines Register 6/13/2020

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