A record number of women will be elected to Congress this year, CNN projects – but barely.
The 149 women who will serve in the US House and Senate in the 118th Congress will expand the ranks of female representation by just two members above the record set by this Congress.
Alaska carried women across that threshold on Wednesday night when the state determined through its ranked-choice voting system that Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, will represent the state’s at-large House seat for a full term after winning the special election earlier this year, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski will win reelection.
Women will break an overall record in the House, with 124 taking office in January.
And not only will women of color break records in the 118th Congress, but within the House alone, there will also be a record number of both Latinas and Black women. There will be four more Latinas in the House for a total of 18 – the most ever – and one more Black woman, bringing their total from 26 to 27.
More than half of the incoming class of 22 freshman women in the House will be women of color, showing the increasing diversity of that chamber.
“We’ve seen a pretty steady increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of women as candidates, nominees, and then officeholders at the congressional level, but more specifically, in the US House,” said Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
“That diversity is still hugely lacking in the US Senate. … We’re seeing stasis there in terms of the number of women of color overall. The number of Asian and Latino women specifically will stay the same, and the number of Black women will stay the same at zero.”
Rep.-elect Sydney Kamlager of California is one of those new voices coming to the House. A state senator, she was elected to replace retiring Rep. Karen Bass, who will become the first female mayor of Los Angeles. Kamlager said while she is excited about the diversity of the freshman class, there is still a long way to go.
“I think folks have to stop giving lip service to Black women and brown women and put the money where the mouth is. The fact remains that Black and brown women face higher barriers of entry into this work than other women and men,” the Democrat said. “When we run, our contributions are less oftentimes than men. We are held to higher and double standards,” she added, noting that female candidates are still often asked why they are not “home taking care of your husband or your children.”
“Folks are OK with a mediocre male candidate but expect the female candidate to be off the charts,” she said.
Rep.-elect Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat, is the first Latina elected to Congress from Colorado. A state representative and the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, she’ll also be just the second female doctor who’s a voting member of…