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Election Increases Number of Women in Congress

Even with several races still unresolved, the results of the 2000 election have brought the number of women in Congress to a new high. There will be at least 12 women serving in the Senate and 62 women serving in the House during the 107th Congress—in contrast to 9 Senate women and 58 House women in the current Congress.

Several aspects of this year’s election were unique, including the fact that there were no women incumbents defeated in reelection bids. Women departing seats held in the 106th Congress included only Rep. Deborah Stabenow (D-MI), who made a successful Senate bid, and retiring Reps. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID), Pat Danner (D-MO), and Tillie Fowler (R-FL).

The number of women in Congress could shift yet again, depending on the results of some unsettled races. In addition, if Vice President Gore and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), win the White House, it is possible that Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) will be appointed to fill Sen. Lieberman’s seat.

Unresolved Races
Vote totals remain unofficial in several races involving women candidates, including:

  • Democrat Maria Cantwell’s challenge to Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA);
  • Democrat Gerrie Schipske’s challenge to Rep. Steve Horn (R-CA);
  • Democrat Elaine Bloom’s challenge to Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL); and
  • the contest between Democrat Dianne Byrum and Republican Mike Roger for an open seat in Michigan.

Women Newly Elected to the Senate

Senator-elect Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) defeated incumbent Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) in a closely watched contest. She has served in the House since 1997. Before that time, she was a member of the Michigan state House and Senate, and she made a gubernatorial bid in 1994. As a member of the House, Sen.-elect Stabenow emphasized access to technology for schools, as well as Social Security and pension reform.

Jean Carnahan is expected to be appointed to fill the Senate seat won in her husband’s name in Missouri. When he passed away on October 16, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan (D-MO) was engaged in a heated race against incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft (R-MO). Gov. Carnahan’s name appeared on ballots because his death occurred too late for its removal. On October 30, Ms. Carnahan announced that she would accept the appointment if her husband’s name garnered enough votes. With a 50 to 48 percent victory, Ms. Carnahan is expected to serve until 2002, when a special election will be held to fill the remaining four years of the term. As the state’s first lady, she has been active in promoting childhood immunizations, employer-supported child care centers, and efforts to reduce domestic violence.

Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) defeated Rep. Rick Lazio (R-NY) in an open-seat contest that was possibly the nation’s most-watched Senate race. Her election marks the first time that a first lady has been elected to public office. She is expected to focus on education and other issues affecting children, as well as health care reform.

Women Newly Elected to the House

Rep.-elect Hilda Solis (D-CA) defeated incumbent Rep. Matthew Martinez in the Democratic primary election. She faced no substantial challenge in the general election and has held state-level elected offices—including community college trustee, state Assembly, and state Senate—since 1995. Earlier, she worked as a White House aide during the Carter administration. As a state senator, she sponsored legislation pertaining to women’s health and spousal rape.

Rep.-elect Jane Harman (D-CA) defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA) in a close race. She served in the House from 1993 to 1999 before making an unsuccessful bid for her state’s gubernatorial nomination in 1998. She also worked for the Department of Defense during the Carter administration. Her legislative career has emphasized defense and technology issues.

Rep.-elect Susan Davis (D-CA) defeated incumbent Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA). She has served in the state Assembly since 1995. She is also a former school board member. In the state Assembly, she introduced legislation to protect medical privacy and increase access to start-up capital for small businesses.

Rep.-elect Betty McCollum (D-MN) defeated Republican Linda Runbeck in a contest for the seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN), who then died on October 10 . She has served in the state House since 1993, and she has held the position of assistant majority leader since 1995. During that time, she has focused on broadening health care access for children and improving the environment.

Rep.-elect Melissa Hart (R-PA) defeated Democrat Terry Van Horne in a contest for the seat left open by Rep. Ron Klink’s (D-PA) run for the Senate. She has served in the state Senate since 1991. She is expected to focus on tax issues and Social Security reform.

Rep.-elect Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) defeated Democrat Lawrence Davies in a contest for the seat left open by the death of Rep. Herbert Bateman. She has served in the state House since 1998, and she ran her own real estate company before entering politics. She is expected to focus on military readiness and business issues.

Rep.-elect Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) defeated Democrat Jim Humphreys in a contest for the seat left open by Rep. Bob Wise’s (D-WV) gubernatorial run. Her win marks the first time that her state has elected a Republican to a House seat since 1980. She has served in the state House since 1997. She is expected to focus on education, health care, and Social Security reform.

Women Incumbents
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) successfully defended their seats in the 2000 election. In addition, all of the women seeking reelection to the House were victorious.

Women in Governorships
With two women candidates winning their contests, the 2000 election brought the number of women serving in governorships to a new high. Lt. Governors Judy Martz (R-MT) and Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE) were both successful in their gubernatorial bids. In addition, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) won reelection. Other women governors currently in office include Govs. Jane Hull (R-AZ) and Christie Todd Whitman (R-NJ).

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