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Will Women Lose Ground in the House GOP After 2014?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are at virtually no risk of losing their House majority in November, but there is a little extra pressure to win a handful of key districts in order to avoid taking a step back in the number of women in the Republican conference.  

Republicans have been on the defensive about their appeal to women voters and the lack of female candidates. Some previous studies and news reports have put some unreasonable expectations on how many women Republicans “should” be electing. (You can read my April 2014 piece, “Why Republicans Have Trouble Electing Women to Congress,” for background information.)  

Most GOP strategists would agree that starting the 114th Congress with more Republican women than the 113th Congress is a bare minimum goal. But achieving that goal is not guaranteed. Republicans began the 113th Congress with 20 women (compared to 83 for Democrats). But early in 2013, Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced her departure and she was eventually replaced by fellow Republican Jason Smith in a special election. So Republicans immediately started down one woman.  

In addition, West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is running for the United States Senate and Republicans nominated Alex Mooney in the race to replace her. And Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her retirement, but Republicans nominated Tom Emmer to replace her. So Republicans are down a net of three women before there is even talk of growing the ranks of GOP women in the caucus.  

The good news for Republicans is that Mia Love is the prohibitive favorite to win in Utah’s 4th District and Mimi Walters is likely to win California’s 45th District, left open by GOP Rep. John Campbell’s retirement. With those results, Republicans are back to being down one from the beginning of the 113th, but the outlook for the next crop of potential women winners is much more uncertain.  

Elise Stefanik in New York’s 21st District, Martha McSally in Arizona’s 2nd District, Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th District, and Marilinda Garcia in New Hampshire’s 2nd District constitute the next wave of female GOP candidates. Republicans will likely need at least two of them to win in order to grow their ranks in the next Congress. (You can get see full House ratings map from The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call here .)  

There is a trio of other female candidates who might be able to pull off wins including Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa’s 2nd District), Wendy Rogers (Arizona’s 9th District) and Darlene Senger (Illinois’ 11th District). They could win in a broader Republican wave election. But if that happens, then all of the previous four candidates would likely come out on top as well.  

Changing the Republican party’s image as a club for aging, white men is not going to happen overnight. But GOP strategists would love to have at least a few freshman female officeholders to be out front carrying the party message.  

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