The 2018 election season saw the highest number of women in American history run for, and elected to, federal office. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, nearly 260 women candidates were successful in their primary elections. A record-breaking 120 women were elected to serve in the 116th Congress, while one candidate later was appointed to fill a vacant seat. An additional ten women Senators were not up for reelection this cycle, bringing the total number of women who will serve in the House and Senate next year to 131, including the four delegates from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The Senate will remain in Republican control and will include 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, including a record 25 women. Eleven of the incumbent Senators who ran for reelection in 2018 won their bids: Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), who was appointed in April to replace Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), won a November 27 run off to retain her seat. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) lost their reelection bids.
Three newly elected women will join the Senate next year: Sens.-elect Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), all of whom currently serve in the House. Sen. Hyde-Smith is the first woman elected to represent Mississippi in Congress. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) also will be sworn into the 116th Congress when it convenes in January. She was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Sen.-elect Sinema and Rep. McSally will be the first women to represent Arizona in the Senate.
California, New Hampshire, and Washington will continue to be represented by two women Senators. With the reelection of Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, the election of Rep. Rosen, and the appointment of Rep. McSally, Arizona, Minnesota and Nevada also will be represented by two women Senators in the 116th Congress.
House of Representatives
Control of the House of Representatives shifted on Election Night, with Democrats poised to be in the majority for the first time since 2011. To date, 234 Democrats and 199 Republicans will be sworn into the 116th Congress. This includes 106 women in the House (including four delegates), a net gain of 17 seats. The number of women includes 91 Democrats and 15 Republicans.
Heading into Election Day, fourteen women incumbent Members retired, lost their primaries, or ran for another office. Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carol Shea- Porter (D-NH), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) retired, while Reps. Diane Black (R-TN), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), and Kristi Noem (R-SD) left to pursue governorships. Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU) lost her primary bid; Reps. Blackburn, McSally, Rosen, and Sinema mounted Senate campaigns. Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Karen Handel (R-GA), Mia Love (R-UT), Claudia Tenney (R- NY), and Mimi Walters (R-CA) lost their reelection bids.
The 116th Congress will be among the most diverse in the nation’s history, with 46 African American, Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American women elected to Congress. Two women, Reps.- elect Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), are of Middle Eastern descent; Reps.-elect Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) will be the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Reps.-elect Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Sharice Davids (D-KS) will be the first Native American women to serve in Congress. Reps.-elect Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) will be the first African American women elected from New England to Congress, while Reps.-elect Veronica Escobar (D) and Sylvia Garcia (D) will be the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress.
Sen.-elect Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) defeated former Governor Phil Bredesen (D-TN) for the seat left open by Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) retirement. She served eight terms representing the 7th District of Tennessee in the House of Representatives, where she was a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Sen.-elect Blackburn previously served in the Tennessee State legislature and will be the first woman elected to represent Tennessee in the Senate.
Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Rep. McSally served two terms in the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Arizona, where she served on the Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. She previously served in the Air Force, where she became the first woman to fly in combat and to command a fighter squadron in combat.
Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen (D-NV) defeated incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 and was a member of the Armed Services and Science, Space, and Technology Committees. A former computer programmer and software developer, Sen.-elect Rosen previously led a team that constructed one of the largest solar projects in Henderson and southern Nevada.
Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) defeated Rep. Martha McSally (R) for the seat left vacant by Sen. Jeff Flake’s retirement. She served two terms representing the 9th District of Arizona in the House of Representatives. During her tenure, Sen.-elect Sinema served on the Financial Services Committee. She was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004, and to the state Senate in 2010.
Rep.-elect Cindy Axne (D-IA) defeated incumbent Rep. David Young (R). The fifth-generation Iowan previously served in several positions within Iowa state government, including the Departments of Natural Resources and Administrative Services. She became an activist for education and all-day kindergarten programs in her community. She is among the first women to represent Iowa in Congress.
Rep.-elect Angie Craig (D-MN) defeated incumbent Rep. Jason Lewis (R) in a rematch from 2016. The former newspaper reporter previously worked at Global Human Resources before a long career at St. Jude’s Medical Center. During her tenure at St. Jude’s, she launched a women in business program that brought more women into management positions.
Rep.-elect Sharice Davids (D-KS) defeated incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder (R). She is a former Mixed Martial Arts athlete who later became a White House Fellow during the Obama and Trump administrations. She is among the first Native American women to serve in Congress and the first LGBTQ individual to represent Kansas in Congress.
Rep.-elect Madeleine Dean (D-PA) defeated Dan David (R) in a newly drawn district. A former trial attorney and English professor, Rep.-elect Dean was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2012. She previously served as a local township commissioner and was appointed to the Governor’s Pennsylvania Commission on Women.
Rep.-elect Veronica Escobar (D-TX) defeated Rick Seeberger (R) for the seat left open by Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid. She previously served as County Commissioner and County Judge for El Paso. Rep.-elect Escobar formerly served as Communications Director for the former mayor of El Paso, as well as a nonprofit executive and professor of English and Chicano literature.
Rep.-elect Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) defeated incumbent Rep. Rob Blum (R). She first was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives at the age of 25. She previously served as a page to Rep. Jim Nussle (R) and state Rep. Pat Murphy (D). An Iowa volunteer for Joe Biden’s presidential bid, she is among the first women to represent Iowa in Congress.
Rep.-elect Elizabeth “Lizzie” Pannill Fletcher (D-TX) defeated incumbent Rep. John Culberson (R). She is an attorney who co-founded Planned Parenthood Young Leaders. Rep.-elect Fletcher is a civil rights attorney who became the first female partner at her law firm.
Rep.-elect Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) defeated Phillip Arnold Aronoff (R) for the seat left vacant by Rep. Gene Green’s retirement. Rep.-elect Garcia served five terms as Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System, and later was elected City Controller. The first Hispanic woman elected to Harris County Commissioner’s Court, she later served in the Texas State Senate.
Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM) defeated Janice Arnold-Jones (R) for the seat left vacant by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s bid for governor. Rep.-elect Haaland previously ran for Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico and served as Native American Caucus Chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party. She is the first Native American woman to chair a state party and is among the first Native American women elected to Congress.
Rep.-elect Jahana Hayes (D-CT) defeated Manny Santos (R) for the seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Elizabeth Esty. Rep.-elect Hayes taught high school social studies and was recognized as National Teacher of the Year in 2016. She is the first African American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress, and among the first African American women to represent New England in Congress.
Rep.-elect Katherine “Katie” Hill (D-CA) defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Knight (R). She is the former Executive Director of PATH, California’s largest nonprofit provider of homes for the homeless. Rep.-elect Hill is the first Democrat to represent her district in a quarter-century and the first woman ever to do so.
Rep.-elect Kendra Horn (D-OK) defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Russell (R). The former congressional staffer and aerospace executive ran two nonprofit organizations focused on developing women’s leadership skills and encouraging them to run for public office.
Rep.-elect Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) defeated Greg McCauley (R) for the seat once held by Rep. Ryan Costello. Rep.-elect Houlahan is a third-generation veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force. She is a former chemistry teacher and Teach for America alumnus. She previously served as Chief Operations Officer of AND1 Basketball, an apparel and footwear company.
Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) defeated Lea Marquez Peterson (R) for the seat left vacant by Rep. Martha McSally’s Senate bid. She first was elected to the House of Representatives in 2008, and again in 2012 and 2014, after serving as Deputy County Attorney for Coconino County and as Sedona City Attorney. Rep.-elect Kirkpatrick previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she was the Ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Rep.-elect Susie Lee (D-NV) defeated Danny Tarkanian (R) for the seat left open by Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate bid. She is the Founding Director of After-School All-Stars and former President of Communities in Schools Nevada. She also founded a women’s investment group that supported several nonprofits in Nevada and served as Founding Director of a homeless crisis intervention center.
Rep.-elect Elaine Luria (D-VA) defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Taylor (R). She is a former Naval Surface Warfare Officer who was deployed in the Middle East and Western Pacific. She was one of the first women to attend the Naval Nuclear Power School. Following her Naval service, she became a small business owner.
Rep.-elect Lucia “Lucy” McBath (D-GA) defeated incumbent Rep. Karen Handel (R). The former flight attendant became an activist following the death of her son as a result of gun violence. She joined Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention as one of the “Mothers of the Movement.”
Rep.-elect Carol Miller (R-WV) defeated Richard Ojeda (D) for the seat left open by Rep. Evan Jenkins’ retirement. She is a former small business owner and farmer who served in the West Virginia House of Delegates since 2013.
Rep.-elect Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) defeated incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R). Rep.-elect Mucarsel-Powell immigrated to the United States from Ecuador when she was small child. She worked in several nonprofit organizations before joining Florida International University, first as a Director of Development, and later as Associate Vice President of Advancement for the Herbert Wertham College of Medicine.
Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary. A former staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), she also previously served as an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016. She is a former community organizer and educational director, and is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) defeated Jennifer Zielinski (R) to fill the seat left open by Rep. Keith Ellison’s retirement. She and her family fled Somalia when she was eight years old and later became a legislative aide to a member of the Minneapolis City Council. In 2017, she was elected to the Minnesota State House, becoming the first Somali-American ever elected to a state legislature. She is among the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Rep.-elect Katherine “Katie” Porter (D-CA) defeated incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters (R). Rep.-elect Porter previously worked as a consumer protection attorney and later was appointed by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris to be California’s independent monitor of banks. She is an author and tenured law professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) defeated incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano in the September Democratic primary; she ran unopposed in the general election. She was elected to the Boston City Council in 2009, becoming the first African American woman to serve on the Council. Rep.-elect Pressley previously worked for former Rep. Joe Kennedy, II (D-MA), and was a longtime staffer to the late Sen.
Ted Kennedy (D-MA). She is among the first African American women to represent New England in Congress.
Rep.-elect Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) defeated Pearl Kim (R) for the seat held by retiring Rep. Glenn Thompson. Rep.-elect Scanlon is a civil rights attorney who previously served on the Wallingford- Swarthmore School Board, where she served as President and Vice President. She is the former chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Children at Risk and the Legal Rights of Children Committee.
Rep.-elect Kim Schrier (D-WA) defeated Dino Rossi (R) for the seat once held by Rep. Dave Reichert (R). Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a teenager inspired her to become a pediatrician. She later became an advocate to protect the Affordable Care Act. Rep.-elect Schrier will be the only female doctor serving in Congress.
Rep.-elect Donna Shalala (D-FL) defeated Maria Elvira Salazar (R) for the seat left vacant by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement. The former Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration, Rep.-elect Shalala also served as President of the University of Miami, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and President of Hunter College.
Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) defeated Jay Webber (R) for the seat held by retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R). The former Navy Sea King helicopter pilot served in the European Theater during the Iraq invasion and as Flag Aide to the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Rep.-elect Sherrill is a former U.S. Attorney who worked in New Jersey on offender reentry, among other programs.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) defeated incumbent Rep. Mike Bishop (R). The former Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency previously served in defense and intelligence roles during the Bush and Obama administrations before serving as the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs.
Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) defeated incumbent Rep. David Brat (R). She formerly served as a federal law enforcement officer with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and subsequently served in the Central Intelligence Agency as an Operations Officer. The former Senate page for former Sen. Chuck Robb (D-VA) also worked in the private sector on higher education issues.
Rep.-elect Haley Stevens (D-MI) defeated Lena Epstein (R) for the seat left open by Rep. Dave Trott’s retirement. Rep.-elect Stevens served as Chief of Staff to the Auto Task Force at the Department of Treasury during the Obama Administration. She also served as a policy advisor in the Economic Development Agency and has been a frequent speaker on job creation and training programs.
Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) ran unopposed after winning the primary to fill the seat left vacant by Rep. John Conyers’ retirement. The daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Rep.-elect Tlaib was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, where she chaired the Appropriations Committee, and was the first Muslim woman to serve in a state legislature nationwide. She is among the first Muslim women elected to Congress.
Rep.-elect Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) defeated Yvette Herrell (R) for the seat left open by Rep. Steven Pearce’s retirement. She is a former Field Representative for Sen. Tom Udall (D). As a judicial law clerk for a federal judge, she worked one of the heaviest criminal dockets in the country. She subsequently practiced at a law firm.
Rep.-elect Lori Trahan (D-MA) defeated Rick Green (R) for the seat left open by Rep. Niki Tsongas’ retirement. Rep.-elect Trahan is the former Deputy Treasurer of Massachusetts and longtime Chief of Staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA). She subsequently served as Chief Executive Officer of a business consulting firm that helped promote women’s leadership.
Rep.-elect Lauren Underwood (D-IL) defeated incumbent Rep. Randy Hultgren (R). A diagnosis of a heart condition as a child inspired her nursing career. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a senior advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she helped communities address public health needs, as well as implement the Affordable Care Act.
Rep.-elect Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) defeated incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R). Rep.-elect Wexton formerly served in the Virginia State Senate and as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County, where she prosecuted domestic violence and sexual assault cases. Prior to serving in the state Senate, she was selected to become the Substitute Judge in the District Court.
Rep.-elect Susan Ellis Wild (D-PA) defeated Marty Nothstein (R) and Tim Silfies (L) for the seat left vacant by Rep. Pat Meehan’s retirement. An attorney, Rep.-elect Wild became the first woman to serve as Solicitor for Allentown, PA. She has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations in her district.