Women Steadily Gain in Elective Office, Setting Several ‘Firsts’ 

January 10, 2023 

Women voters turned out in record numbers in November 2022 midterm elections, securing an impressive number of congressional and gubernatorial seats and achieving a few important ‘firsts.’ Many were ushered into office by the strong turnout of Democrats and women voters in reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Exit polling affirmed that many Republicans and independents as well voted for candidates who pledged to fight for reproductive rights. No doubt women members will play important roles in the 118th Congress. 

What is interesting about midterm election winners is that the group is more diverse than ever. Importantly, Democrats continue to significantly outpace Republicans in Congressional seats secured. Three times as many women Democrats as Republican women serve in the House, while Democrats outnumber Republicans in the contingent of 25 women senators. There are considerably higher numbers of Democratic women members of Congress as compared to Republican women members which also correlates with a broader pattern across the states.  

According to recent data from the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP), women set a new record with 149 women seated in the new Congress, two more than in the 117th. Twenty-two women (15D, 7R) non-incumbents replaced the 21 women members who retired or sought other opportunities. A total of 124 (91D, 33R) women serve in the House, one more than the previous Congress. For the Senate, 25 women, one less than at the start of the previous Congress are serving. The grand sum of 149 represents a 59 percent increase of women serving in Congress compared to ten years ago when the number was 96 – a gain that can rightfully be attributed to the leadership of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D).   

But the bad news is that 222 conservative Republicans are now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives; their caucus includes a sizeable group who hold very extreme political views. The Republicans are expected to push regressive legislation, including perhaps a national abortion ban, deep cuts in social spending, and other controversial initiatives. A total of 154 election deniers were elected to Congress; some are alleged to have worked with the January 6th insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol. 

The House Democratic caucus totals 212 members, with one seat vacant. Fortunately, the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and in the Biden administration – with many strong progressives and reproductive rights advocates — will serve as a brake on harmful legislation passed by the House majority.  

Overall, the gains for women in Congress are modest, and women are still far from parity, as an analyst at the CAWP observed. Of course, we would like to see a Congress with at least 50% women! Progress made towards gaining elective office at the state level is more impressive. 

Gubernatorial, Congressional WinnersNotable Firsts 

 The 2022 mid-term elections resulted in a record-breaking number of 12 women elected governor, with 8 Democrats and 4 Republicans. The previous top number of women to serve at one time was 9 governors, set in 2004 and serving in 2022. In addition, there are 21 women serving as lieutenant governors. Women statewide executive office holders increased their proportion from 24% to 30.3 percent in 2023. Arkansas, Massachusetts, and New York elected their first woman governor. Two gubernatorial races featured all women candidates, in Arizona and Oregon. Arkansas and Massachusetts are the first states to have women serving as both governor and lieutenant governor. Here are some highlights: 

  • In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), daughter of a former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, and a former White House press secretary for Donald Trump was elected governor and was sworn in on January 4th. Her lieutenant governor is Leslie Rutledge (R). 
  • Massachusetts’ new governor, Maura Healey (D), formerly the state’s attorney general, is the first woman to serve as governor and the first openly lesbian candidate elected to that seat. Kim Driscoll (D), mayor of Salem, is the new lieutenant governor. 
  • Tina Kotek (D), long-time speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, was elected governor; she is openly lesbian. She was sworn in on Monday, January 9th. 
  • Kathy Hochul (D) is the first elected female governor of New York, after assuming the office following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021. She is the 57th governor of the state and was sworn in on January 1st. 
  • Katie Hobbs (D), former Secretary of State, was sworn in as governor of Arizona on Thursday, January 5th, defeating by 17,000 votes television personality, Kari Lake (R). Lake, who was endorsed by Donald Trump and has refused to concede, has filed a lawsuit to overturn election results.  
  • Aruna Miller (D) will be the first Asian American lieutenant governor of Maryland. She will be sworn in on January 18th with Wes Moore, Maryland’s first Black governor-elect and only the third Black American in the country to be elected governor. 
  • All women governors are White, except New Mexico’s re-elected Latina Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)  
  • Yadira Caraveo (D) is the first Latina elected to Congress from Colorado.  
  • Delia Ramirez (D) is the first Latina elected to Congress from Illinois.  
  • Andrea Campbell (D) is the first Black woman elected attorney general of Massachusetts.  
  • Becca Balint (D) is the first woman elected to Congress from Vermont.  
  • Summer Lee (D) is the first Black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania.  
  • Virginia State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) won a special primary election to be the Democratic nominee for CD 4 to fill a vacancy created by the passing of Rep. Donald McEachin (D). McClellan will face Republican Leon Benjamin on February 21 but is expected to win this safe Democratic seat. If she does, McClellan will become the first Black woman in the Virginia Congressional delegation. 

U.S. Congress 

As noted, the 2022 midterm elections resulted in 149 seats filled by women in the 118th Congress. A slight increase from the 147-record number of women serving at one time in 2022, this total brings women’s presence to 27.9% of the 535 members.  

  • The U.S. Senate now has 25 women (25%), with 15 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and 1 Independent. 
  • The U.S. House of Representatives has 124 women (28.3%), with 91 Democrats and 33 Republicans.  
  • There are 22 non-incumbent women winners of U.S House seats, 15 Democrats and 7 Republicans.  
  • The U.S. House of Representatives gained 4 Latina/Hispanic women to total 19 (14D, 5R) representatives this election cycle, jumping from the previous record of 15 women set in 2022.  
  • 27 Black women have joined as House members; one more than previously – all are Democrats. 
  • Sharice Davids (D), from Kansas, is one of only three Native American women ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Former New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland (D) is currently serving as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. 
  • Alaska Native Mary Peltola (D) won a special election for the At-Large seat of Rep. Don Young (R) who passed away in March. She then won the midterm election to serve the two-year term, defeating former Alaska governor and one-time vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (R). 
  • Katie Britt (R), of Alabama, is the only non-incumbent woman winner of a U.S. Senate seat and is the first woman senator from that state.  
  • Most women senators are White, holding 22 out of 25 seats. The two non-White women senators, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) offer Asian American and Pacific Islander representation. There are currently no Black women senators, but in past years the Senate has had two Black women senators: Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun (D) of Illinois, and Kamala Harris (D) of California who is of Black and South Asian heritage and is now Vice President. 
  • Of the 154 members of the 118th Congress (both bodies) who are election deniers, there are 19 senators of the Senate, including four women and new member Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL). For the House election deniers (135), there are 21 women members in that group, including newly-electeds Reps. Monica De La Cruz (TX), Harriet Hageman (WY), Jen Kiggans (VA), and Anna Paulina Luna (FL) – all are Republicans.

State Legislatures  

The 2022 midterm elections resulted in 2,404 (1,581D, 802R, 18NP, 2IND, and 1PRG) women elected to serve in state legislatures at 32.6 percent of the 7,383 seats. This is a record number of women to serve in state legislatures, beginning in 2023. According to CAWP, since 1971 the total of women state legislators has quintupled. 

  • 1,815 women will serve in State Houses/Assembles (33.5 percent), and 589 (29.9 percent) will serve in State Senates – the overall total includes the 265 incumbent women carried over from 2022. 
  • States with the highest proportions of female lawmakers include (in descending order) Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland, Arizona, New Mexico, Maine, Washington, and Vermont – all with more than 40 percent women members. 
  • Nevada wins the prize with more than half of their legislature made up of women, having reached 58.7% for the 2021-2022 session and in 2023 boasting 60.7% women members. 
  • States with the lowest proportions of female lawmakers (beginning with the lowest participation) include West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Arkansas, and North Dakota – all less than 23 percent. 
  • California’s state legislature is the first to achieve proportional LGBTQ+ representation, with at least 10% LGBTQ+ members.  
  • A breakdown of race and ethnicity for women state legislators is not yet available. For more interesting data about women in politics, go to the Center for American Women in Politics, Center for American Women and Politics (rutgers.edu)    

Compiled by Elizabeth Safaryn, NOW Government Relations Intern, based on election results and additional research, information accessed in December 2022 and January 2023 from the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP), Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.  

More Information: 

Women in the U.S. House of Representatives 2023 (rutgers.edu)   

118th Congress has a record number of women | Pew Research Center 

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