Women lose ground in Congress

2010-11-04 08:13

The number of women in Congress is to fall for the first time in more than 30 years after a string of female losses in US mid-term elections.

The Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University said the number of women in the House of Representatives would drop from 73 to 70, based on near-complete results.

There could be losses too in the Senate, but if Lisa Murkowski triumphs in Alaska as expected and Patty Murray holds on to a slim lead in Washington state the 100-seat upper chamber will remain at 17 female members.

The decline in the number of women in Congress is the first since the 1978 elections, the centre said.

The results reflected a Republican rout in most areas and because more women candidates are Democrats that meant a net loss of female representatives.

“There are so many incumbent women Democrats, and in this election, being an incumbent and a Democrat is a bit of a double whammy,” said centre director Debbie Walsh.

Six female candidates for the Senate and 69 in the House were incumbents. The overwhelming majority of them – five senators and 54 representatives – were Democrats.

Women could have fared better if more of the record number who run in the Republican primaries had won.

“With a powerful Republican tide, more women could have been swept in, had there had been more candidates,” Walsh noted.

Just 47 of the record 128 Republican women who ran for the House of Representatives won, and only six of the 17 Republican candidates competing for Senate slots.

Women Democrats, meanwhile, ran in this year’s primaries in smaller numbers than in previous years, but were more successful than their Republican counterparts.

Ninety-one of 134 women Democrats who ran in this year’s primaries for the House won, as did nine of 19 in the Senate.

The results of Tuesday’s election, shifting control of the House to Republicans, also means that Representative Nancy Pelosi will lose her leadership role as House Speaker, the highest elective post ever held by a woman in the United States.

If the results hold, the US will see the percentage of women in the national legislature fall to 16% from 16.8%.

That means the United States would be bumped from the 73rd spot it shares with the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan in terms of the percentage of women in parliament, according to rankings compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

This would put it below Albania and just above North Korea in the union’s rankings on female representation.

The slide comes just two years after Hillary Clinton became the first serious woman contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Sarah Palin became the first Republican woman on a presidential election ticket.?

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