When a record 52 female politicians won seats in the House and Senate 20 years ago, pundits declared it the Year of the Woman. But anyone who imagined that women were about to achieve representation in keeping with their 51 percent share of the population was soon disappointed. This fall, female candidates of both parties hope to expand the ranks of women in government. Here, some races to watch.
Representative Tammy Baldwin (D) aims to become the first openly lesbian U.S. senator, but she also would be Wisconsin’s first woman in that job. Democrats like their chances in this battleground state, but winning won’t be easy, with national interest groups and super PACs pouring in money to influence the result.
Tammy Duckworth (D), an Iraq-war vet who is a double amputee, served in the Obama administration and is making her second bid for a House seat from Illinois. She is looking to defeat Tea Party freshman Joe Walsh; replacing Walsh is critical to Democrats’ hopes of reclaiming the House.
Maggie Hassan (D) stands at a crossroads: If she loses in New Hampshire, there won’t be a single female Democratic governor next year. Hassan bills herself as a collaborative figure, on the basis of her years in state government.
Linda Lingle (R), former governor of Hawaii, is taking on current congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D) in a U.S. Senate contest. Whoever wins, Hawaii will send a woman to the upper house for the first time. Hirono gets a boost by having Aloha State native Obama in the White House, but Republicans say Lingle, whose popularity and connections make her a fund-raising machine, may surprise us.
Mia Love (R) is a black Mormon with a toss-up chance of toppling Utah Representative Jim Matheson (D). There are only two black Republicans in Congress, both of them male. If Love wins, it’s a safe bet that the diversity-seeking House leadership will consider her for a plum post.
Deb Fischer (R), a Nebraska state senator (and rural rancher) aiming for a U.S. Senate seat, rode a Sarah Palin endorsement to victory over better-known primary candidates. Democrats say ex-senator and former governor Bob Kerrey has a fighting chance. But in this conservative state, Fischer may benefit from voters’ turning out to express disappointment with the president.