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Big Gains for GOP Women Riding 'Pink Wave' on Capitol Hill

01-08-2021
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US Capitol  (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
US Capitol (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The new 117th Congress boasts a record number of women representing Americans in Washington. That includes more Republican women than ever, which is quite a GOP comeback after significant losses in 2018.
 
Republican women serving across both chambers jumps from the 2018 number of 22 to a record-breaking 36. Many of them turned blue seats to red in key districts and helping to narrow the balance of power in the House.
 
The campaign cycle was so successful that it has a new name.
 
"This is the year of the Republican Woman, said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). 
 
Women won 10 of the 14 seats Republicans flipped in the House. They took various paths to DC from replacing retiring incumbents to making the leap from state legislatures or like Representative Young Kim of California, who won on the second try.
 
"A lot of women were just frustrated, and we are not going to leave it up to just a man to do the job. So, I am not a quitter, as you know, I have run in 2018 for this very same seat. And I just wanted to get things done, and I am glad to be a part of the many women that were elected in this election cycle," said Kim.
 
This outcome is a far cry from the 2018 midterms when Democrats ushered in a deluge of women, many of color, into the House ranks.   
 
"Republican women saw the gains that Democratic women have made in recent cycles, and particularly in the 2018 cycle, and tried to make the case to their voters that they need to be a part of the representation in Congress of both parties," said A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics.
 
While campaigns and credentials are key, their success also reflects the GOP'S 2020 push to recruit, endorse, and invest in diversity. Half of the Republican freshman class are either women or minorities. 
 
"Immigrants from Iran and Korea and Ukraine, they have a member of the Cherokee Nation. it will help them show that the Democratic Party does not have a lock on diversity," said Stoddard.
 
Kim is one of two Korean American Republican women elected this term.
 
"We have an obligation to make America great by bringing all these different unique voices and different perspectives and backgrounds," said Kim.
 
There's another welcome change for republicans.  At 32, representative Kat Cammack (R-FL), is the youngest incoming woman on the GOP side. 
 
I never said, 'vote for me because I am the youngest' or 'vote for me because I am a woman.' When it comes down to it, we just need patriots and people that love this country and see the problems as opportunities for us to really overcome and to serve." she said.
 
After the election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, even recognized the accomplishment. 
 
"Doesn't mean we have shared views, but hopefully we can find common ground," said Pelosi.
 
It's unclear whether the olive branch will extend beyond words, with democratic and republican women not seeing eye to eye on a number of key issues, including abortion. 
 
When Cammack's mother found out she was pregnant with Kat, she refused to take her doctor's advice and abort her because 
it was a high-risk pregnancy.
 
"We're going to be very, very vocal on the issue of abortion and pro-life issues, and using that platform as the youngest Republican woman in the country, I think it's important because i think it is really my peers, my generation that is most impacted by the issue of abortion," said Kat.
 
Despite the gains, women still fill only a quarter of the seats across both parties. but if 2018 and 2020 are any indication, and the current focus continues, numbers are only expected to grow.
 
"They need to bring more women to the party and more women candidates into office, so I see them largely impacting the campaign efforts, more so than policy at this point until they get the majority back, so they will be very energized in their recruitment efforts and their fundraising efforts with their eye on that prize," said Stoddard. 
 
Republicans remain aware this will be a marathon not a sprint in terms of matching or passing the number of Democratic women in congress. Still, they hope history is on their side in 2022 since the party controlling the White House usually loses seats in midterm elections. 
 

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