It’s official: we just lived through another Year of the Woman. A record
number are heading to the U.S. Senate after last night, thanks in part to the
victories of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Deb Fischer.
Eighteen women Senators will take their places in the 113th Congress, beating the current record of 17. According
to EMILY’s List, “Every Democratic woman incumbent Senator was re-elected.”
There are some races that have yet to be called, like Mazie Hirono, Shelley
Berkley, and Heidi Heitkamp, which could push the numbers even further.
Women were also crucial on the other side of the equation: It was their votes
that propelled many of these female candidates to victory. Elizabeth Warren beat
Scott Brown thanks to an 18-point lead among women. Tammy Baldwin
edged out Tommy Thompson with a 14-point lead.
Amy Klobuchar, an incumbent Senator, walloped Kurt Bills with an enormous 44-point
lead. While there’s no exit polling available yet and the race is still too
close to call, Heidi Heitkamp has a slight lead over Republican Rick Berg, who
only supports abortion exceptions for the life of the mother and not for rape victims.
Women also helped elect the country’s first pro-choice governor, Maggie
Hassan of New Hampshire, who was voted in with 60 percent of women supporting her. New
Hampshire, in fact, is national headquarters for the Year of the Woman, with an
all-female Congressional delegation, a female governor, and a woman-controlled
Women voters were certainly fired up this season. They came out to vote in equal
numbers to 2008. As Lisa Maatz of AAUW pointed out to me, young
women who might have felt complacent about their rights “got activated this time
around.” For example, she notes that three-quarters of Baldwin volunteers were
women. She also pointed out that women went to bat for progressive male candidates like Sherrod Brown
and John Tester. Brown saw a 15-point lead among women. Tester was just
called the winner with a seven-point lead. Those voices will also
bolster women’s issues in the next Congress.
What could this mean for policy? The topics of the legislation that get
introduced and passed could very well see a change, Maatz said. She also pointed
out that given the GOP’s new (if failed) push to reach out to women voters this
season, Democrats had to fight harder than usual and couldn’t just take their
votes for granted. That could lead to more legislation aimed at women’s rights,
needs, and concerns.
But for now, we can celebrate the fact that last night’s election was
historic for American women in politics. The percentage of women in office may still be small, but it’s edging up,
in large part thanks to their fellow women at the polls.