2020 Election Produces Historic Inroads for Women of Color

Roz Brown | Public News Service
At least 131 women - 100 Democrats, and 31 Republicans - will serve in Congress in 2021, surpassing the record of 127 set two years ago, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the U.S. Congress convenes in January, a record number of women will be representing their states.

Republican and Democratic women elected this year also will witness another milestone, when Kamala Harris becomes the first female and first Black vice president.

Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said November 2020 was a watershed year for African-Americans, Asian-Americans and other women who’ve long been excluded from many aspects of politics.

“We did have a record number of Native American women who ran for office this cycle for the U.S. House,” Dittmar observed. “And we tracked that over the course of the election cycle, noting the importance of that in diversifying the pool of women who run.”

Deb Haaland, D-N.M., retained her seat while Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-N.M., will be the first woman and Latina to ever represent northern New Mexico in Congress.

In New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., defeated the Democratic incumbent to win her first term representing the state.

Two years ago women running as Democrats captured a record 89 seats in Congress while this election saw new gains for gender diversity on the other side of the political aisle.

Ninety-four Republican female candidates won their primaries; nearly double the previous record. And so far, at least 15 freshman Republican women have won their House races, with some yet to be called.

Dittmar said politics is still an uphill battle for women.

“We’ve been doing this work for nearly 50 years so we know that women’s political progress has been slow, and we know that progress in not inevitable,” Dittmar noted.

Despite the gains, Dittmar said women still will represent less than a quarter of seats in the House and Senate.

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