In historic midterms, women elected left … and center

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Congresswomen-elect Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) embrace. They are two of more than 100 women who will serve in the 116th Congress. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

With results still coming in, the number of women in Congress has already reached a historic high. As of Thursday afternoon, 100 women were elected to the House and 12 to the Senate, with many undecided races featuring women on the ballot yet to be called.

The increase is driven almost entirely by Democratic women. As it stands Thursday, 13 Republican women have been elected to the House, down from 21 in 2016 and the lowest number since the 1992 midterms, when 12 Republican women were elected to the House.

At least 122 women will serve in the next Congress — a record-breaking high at 24 percent but still far from parity. Women will make up 37 percent of the Democratic members of Congress and 6 percent of Republicans.

Assuming Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) wins re-election (her race now heads to a December runoff) and once either Martha McSally or Kyrsten Sinema is declared the winner in the Senate race in Arizona, a record 24 women will serve in the upper chamber. Currently, there are a record 23 female Senators.

In an election cycle filled with several firsts for women, Congress will experience a demographic shift come January. After Tuesday, there will be at least a 17 percent increase in the number of women in the House.

Sixty-four women defeated men for seats in the House and seven for seats in the Senate.

The success of non-incumbent Democratic women was pivotal in flipping the House blue. Looking at the current races that have been called, of the 54 non-incumbent Democrats who won House seats, 63 percent are women. On the other side of the ballot, of the 32 non-incumbent Republicans who won House seats, one was a woman.

Of the 22 Democrats who defeated House incumbents so far, 64 percent are women. Perhaps the biggest upset win of the night went to a Democratic woman when Kendra Horn beat incumbent Rep. Steve Russell in Oklahoma’s 5th District.

It was a historic night for Democratic women, in what appears to be a rapid acceleration of a long-standing trend. A record 785 women ran for Congress this cycle — including 517 Democrats and 188 Republicans — making up 23 percent of congressional candidates. That’s up from 16 percent in 2016.

Many female Democratic candidates said President Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric inspired them to run, including Mikie Sherrill, the winner in New Jersey’s formerly-red 11th Congressional District, who said Trump’s 2016 election “was a slap in the face to a lot of us.”

EMILY’s List, a Democratic group that spends to elect female candidates who support abortion rights, heard from 42,000 women who said they wanted to run for office, up from 920 in 2016.

Like with any candidate, Democratic women needed money to win their races, and they got exactly that. A sharp increase in contributions from female donors proved to benefit the Democrats on Tuesday. All of the winners who received at least half of their money from female donors — 16 so far — are Democrats, and the majority are women.

On average, nearly 41 percent of large individual contributions to winning female Democratic House candidates — accounting for more than $500,000 on average — came from women.

Successful female Republican House candidates saw a much lower ratio — 29 percent and $287,943 on average — and Republican men who won House seats got 24 percent of their funds from women.

Democratic women who won Senate seats on Tuesday almost reached parity with the gender layout of their donations — 49 percent of their contributions came from female donors on average. Female Senate winners raised $4.6 million from women and $4.8 million from men.

Looking at their Republican female counterparts who won seats in the Senate, only 29 percent of their contributions came from women.

The lax fundraising for Republican women appeared to impact their performance at the ballot box. Only eight of the 23 Republican women in the House will be returning in the 116th class of Congress, and one non-incumbent — Carol Miller in West Virginia’s 3rd District — has won so far.

In a stunning upset, Republican Katie Arrington fell to Democrat Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s deep-red 1st Congressional District. Republicans Karen Handel (R-Ga.) and Yvette Herrell fell short in key toss-up races against Democratic women.

Incumbent Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) — the only black Republican woman in Congress — has not officially lost in Utah’s 4th District, but is trailing and was called out as the loser by President Donald Trump.

Overall, women who won their races received significantly more financial support than men.

Female Senate winners averaged more than $18.3 million in financial support — including money spent by the candidate and outside spending benefitting the candidate — compared to $16.6 million for male Senate winners. Successful female House candidates benefitted from $2.5 million on average, compared to roughly $1.2 million for their opponents.

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