Record numbers of women are running, but how many can win?
Posted June 8, 2018 2:44 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — With primary season underway and a record number of women on ballots nationwide, the question now is how many will make it to office after elections in November. The reality is that many of the women running face long odds.
Of the 40 women who have advanced from primaries in Solid Republican districts, 37 of them are Democrats, and may have the odds stacked against them.
In the Senate, there were 11 primaries that fielded women candidates. There are three races where women have advanced past their primary. This includes women incumbents in California and Nebraska. In the latter, two women are competing against each other. In Utah, the Democratic woman faces a very steep climb in a Solid Republican state.
Fifteen gubernatorial primaries have already occurred, with eight women making it past their primaries and 17 women having already lost. Three women are incumbents, four are running in open races, and one is challenging an incumbent.
Here is a closer look.
House: Women contesting red districts
Last year, Rep. Karen Handel narrowly beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House race in history, making her the first Republican woman elected to Congress from Georgia. Republicans had comfortably held the seat for almost 40 years, but Handel only beat Ossoff by 3.8 percentage points. The fact that Republicans had to fight to win this special election encouraged Democratic operatives that a blue wave was coming. Up for reelection again, Handel must continue to fend off the pressure to flip her seat. CNN currently ranks the seat as Likely Republican.
114 women have won their primaries so far in 2018. A total of 40 women have won in districts rated as Solid Republican. However, 93% of the women running in a Solid Republican district are Democrats, who are less likely to win those specific districts. Thirty-one Democrats running in Solid Republican districts are challenging Republican incumbents. In Indiana's 5th Congressional District, there has not been a Democratic representative since Rep. Jim Jontz lost to a Republican in 1993. This year, Democrat Dee Thornton is trying to change that, vying for the spot against incumbent Republican Susan Brooks. A woman will win that race, and Rep. Brooks has a huge advantage; CNN rates the race as Solid Republican.
There are 56 women who are challenging incumbents, 47 are Democrats and nine are Republicans. Breaking down the 47 challenger Democrats, 31 are in Solid Republican districts, six are in Likely Republican districts, and seven are in Lean Republican districts. All nine Republican challengers have won primaries in Solid Democratic districts.
Democratic candidate Amy McGrath, who served in the Marines as a fighter pilot is challenging three-term GOP Rep. Andy Barr. The district is currently leaning in the incumbent Congressman's favor, but since the DCCC made this race a key to their Red to Blue campaign, McGrath has catapulted into the spotlight.
There are 35 women incumbents who have made it past their primaries so far, with the partisan split of 28 Democrats and seven Republicans. Republican women incumbents are more likely to be in Lean or Likely Republican districts as opposed to Democratic incumbent nominees who are all in Solid Democratic districts. Of the seven Republican incumbents, there are four running in districts that are not solidly in their favor.
Republican Rep. Mia Love has held her seat in Utah's 4th District since 2015, when she replaced the last Democrat to hold federal office in the state. As the first black, female Republican to serve in Congress, Love made a huge splash when she first came to the House. Her Democratic challenger in 2018 is Ben McAdams, who served as the Salt Lake County Mayor, and is significantly behind Love's fundraising. Despite this fundraising gap, this district is rated as Lean Republican. In 2016, Love won her reelect by 12.5 points.
In California, four Democrats and one independent candidate fought to take on Rep. Mimi Walters for her seat representing the 45th District. Having voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in a district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, CNN considers the race to be Lean Republican. Walters came in first in the top-two primary system, and her Democratic challenger has still yet to be decided.
There are three women running in Toss Up districts in Iowa, New Jersey, and Texas. All of them are Democrats. Iowa had the highest turnout since 2010 during this years midterm primaries -- 279,124 people showed up compared to 233,090 in 2014, meaning about 13 percent voted in the primary. In Texas' 23rd, another Toss Up race, Rep. Will Hurd (R) will compete against Gina Ortiz Jones (D). In his 2016 reelect, Hurd beat his Democratic opponent by just over one percent.
In Iowa's 1st Congressional District, former state legislator Abby Finkenauer held off three other candidates to win her Democratic primary in Iowa. She will face Republican Rep. Rod Blum in November. Trump won this district by three points in 2016, via the Almanac of American Politics, whereas Obama won it by 14 points in 2012. Finkenauer, 29, would be the youngest women ever elected to Congress, and the first woman to represent Iowa in the House.
In Texas' 23rd District, another Toss Up, former Air Force Intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones won her Democratic primary runoff to face Republican Rep. Will Hurd, who along with Love is one of two black Republicans in the House. If elected, Ortiz Jones would also be among minorities in Congress; she's a lesbian, Iraq war veteran and Filipina-American. She has gained endorsements from liberal groups like Emily's List, VoteVets, and Serve America. But, she still faces an uphill battle to clinch the seat. Hurd has proven to be a moderate Republican who understands the pulse of his district. He has been at the forefront of the effort to force Republican leaders to allow a vote on helping undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. There hasn't been any reliable polling conducted in the district yet, but now that the race is being considered a Toss Up, it probably won't be long.
There are 10 declared races where women are running against each other in the House, three are for open seats and seven are races where both the incumbent and challenger are women.
For reference, 225 women from 26 states have yet to have their House primaries. There are three states set to have primaries with no women running, according to CAWP at Rutgers.
Senate: Solid all the way
There are four women who have won their primaries in Senate races so far. Three are Democrats and one is a Republican. In California, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein easily won the top slot in her primary but will be challenged by progressive candidate Kevin de Léon, a fellow Democrat, in the fall. Feinstein is a four full term incumbent, and won reelection in 2012 with 62% of the vote, taking the record for the most popular votes in any US Senate election -- 7.3 million.
In Nebraska, Democrat Jane Raybould, a member of the Lincoln City Council, will face incumbent Republican Sen. Deb Fischer in a state that is solid red, the only current woman vs. woman race in the Senate.
And in Utah, Jenny Wilson, who served on the Salt Lake County Council, won first place at the Democratic party's convention and will be the party's nominee. Wilson will most likely face off against former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Even though Romney did not emerge with enough of a majority from his party's convention and was forced to hold a primary, he has outraised everyone else in the field and is running in a state that is strongly in favor of Republicans. CNN rates this race as Solid Republican.
Gubernatorial: Women of firsts
Eight women -- five Democrats and three Republicans -- have won gubernatorial primaries so far. Three are incumbents, four are running for open seats, and one is running as a challenger.
In Iowa, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds breezed through her primary unopposed, but faces a tough road ahead to November. She assumed the office only a year ago when former Gov. Terry Branstad was tapped to join the Trump administration as US ambassador to China. Dubbed "the Governor of Trump's America," by Politico, Reynolds must navigate her loyalty to the president while still trying to make a name for herself in a state that is still just getting to know her.
Three Democratic women have won primaries in states that have a strong history of voting Republican. And they are all women of firsts.
Stacey Abrams won her primary in Georgia and would be the first black woman governor ever and the first woman governor of Georgia. Still, Abrams has an uphill road ahead, as there has not been a Democratic governor since Roy Barnes left office in 2003.
In Idaho, Paulette Jordan is trying to become the nation's first Native American governor. In a state that has not had a Democratic governor since 1995, Jordan has her work cut out for her. Despite the landscape, Jordan is not afraid to be critical of Trump in a state that he won by nearly 32 points.
Lupe Valdez won her Democratic primary runoff in Texas to become the first openly gay and first Latina candidate to win a major party nomination in a Texas gubernatorial race. With that milestone under her belt she will now take on Texan Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has held the office since 2015. There has not been a Democratic governor of Texas since Ann Richards in 1995.