A Record Number Of Women Will Serve In Congress (With Potentially More To Come) A record-breaking year of female candidates and nominees will culminate in a record-breaking number of female legislators on Capitol Hill next year.
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A Record Number Of Women Will Serve In Congress (With Potentially More To Come)

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A Record Number Of Women Will Serve In Congress (With Potentially More To Come)

A Record Number Of Women Will Serve In Congress (With Potentially More To Come)

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

One of the biggest storylines going into the midterm elections was the record number of women candidates competing in races all over the country. At least 118 women will be in the next Congress. That's up from the current 107. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been following this storyline, and she joins us now. Hey, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK. So give us a picture of what this field of women looked like last night who were running.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. Well, you had a record number of women who were running this year. You had a record number who were nominated. And last night, you had a record number who were elected. And the biggest jump there really happened in the House. Right now, at our latest count, 95 women were elected to the House. That's up from the current number of 84.

CHANG: Wow.

KURTZLEBEN: So that is a really big one-year jump.

CHANG: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: In addition, there are right now set to be 23 women in the Senate next year. But one important thing about this group of women, it is not equally split by party. It is overwhelmingly Democrat. There is one really important caveat I want to add here, though. And that's, yes, there is reason to make a big deal out of this big jump we had this year. But when you look at the proportion of Congress that's going to be women right...

CHANG: Still not that impressive.

KURTZLEBEN: Not - no, it's not.

CHANG: (Laughter) Yep.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter) I mean, right now, 1 in 5 members of Congress are women, 20 percent. Right now, at the current count, next year there are set to be a whopping 22 percent of Congress members who are women.

CHANG: Yay. Go women.

KURTZLEBEN: So even with all this news, it's still not a huge leap.

CHANG: How about any historic firsts for women candidates? I know that the first Muslim women were elected to Congress, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan. Were there any other notable firsts?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes. There are (laughter) quite a few, actually. I mean, with this big group of women, a diverse group, you're bound to have quite a few. So let's start with Native American women. Two Native American women were elected to the House last night, Deb Haaland in New Mexico, Sharice Davids in Kansas. Both of those are Democrats. You might have a third woman joining them as well, Yvette Herrell. She's a Republican from New Mexico. Her race has not been called yet. Aside from that, you have the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

CHANG: Right.

KURTZLEBEN: She got a lot of attention this year. She's from New York. She's 29.

CHANG: Yeah.

KURTZLEBEN: So yes, there are lots of - there was lots of new ground broken last night.

CHANG: Well, let's talk about the voters. I mean, we know that all women don't vote the same way.

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter) Yeah.

CHANG: So can you offer a little more texture about how you saw women voting yesterday?

KURTZLEBEN: Right. The danger is always to treat (laughter) women as a monolith...

CHANG: The monolith. Yes.

KURTZLEBEN: ...When really, they are the majority of voters anyway.

CHANG: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Of course they vote differently. So one place to look here is race. You have some really huge racial gaps that go along with these gender gaps and tell a more nuanced story here.

CHANG: OK.

KURTZLEBEN: White women, for example, voted roughly evenly for Republicans and Democrats. They were evenly split. Non-white women tended to vote far more Democratic than white women. So you have this really interesting thing happening where, yes, there is a gender gap where white men vote very Republican, white women are evenly split. But non-white voters in general tend to vote much more Democratic than any - than either gender of white people.

CHANG: Was that surprising? That's no different than what we've seen in previous elections, right?

KURTZLEBEN: No, not at all. I mean, but one thing in terms of things that might be changing is college-educated women. This is a recent demographic shift. Last night, college-educated women voted much more Democratic than Republican. That's not exactly new, but it's new in the last few cycles. And one thing the pollsters have told me is that Donald Trump may have accelerated that. It's a demographic shift that was already happening, but it may be speeding up.

CHANG: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you so much.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.

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