Despite a quarter of the women in the House Republican Conference not running for re-election, the head of the House GOP’s campaign arm said he is “very confident” the party can increase its female members in the chamber next year.
But looking at the number of female GOP lawmakers leaving the House and how few Republican women won nominations in open seats this year, just breaking even might be hard for House Republicans.
Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Friday, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers touted his party’s efforts to recruit 120 women to run for Congress.
But only a small fraction of those women actually won their primaries. Even fewer are running in races that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as competitive for Republicans.
Six Republican women in the House aren’t returning. But in only two of those open districts is the GOP nominee a woman. And they’re not favored to win.
Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring from Florida’s 27th District. TV news anchor Maria Salazar won the GOP nomination last month, but she faces an uphill climb in a district Hillary Clinton carried by nearly 20 points. Inside Elections rates the race Leans Democratic.
Arizona Rep. Martha McSally is vacating the 2nd District to run for Senate. Lea Marquez Peterson, the CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, won the GOP nod last month and will face former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in November. Inside Elections rates the race Tilts Democratic.
The four remaining GOP women not returning to the House — Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black and South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem — are all leaving behind districts where men have won the Republican nominations.
So where can GOP women make up the gaps?
The three best opportunities are in open seats currently held by Republican men. State Del. Carol Miller is running for West Virginia’s 3rd District, which Rep. Evan Jenkins is vacating. Inside Elections rates the race Leans Republican. South Carolina state Rep. Katie Arrington is running in the 1st District after defeating Rep. Mark Sanford in the primary. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican. And in New Mexico’s 2nd District, state Rep. Yvette Herrell is the GOP nominee for the seat Rep. Steve Pearce vacated to run for governor. Inside Elections rates the race Leans Republican.
The party’s next best opportunities to elect women are in two Toss-up races. In Michigan’s 11th District, Republican businesswoman Lena Epstein is running against Democrat Haley Stevens, the chief of staff to former President Barack Obama’s Auto Task Force. In California’s 39th District, former state Assemblywoman Young Kim is running for the open seat her former boss, GOP Rep. Ed Royce, is leaving behind. She’s facing Democrat Gil Cisneros in November.
Republicans have other female candidates, but they’re running in districts that currently look more favorable for Democrats.
Air Force veteran Wendy Rogers won the GOP nomination in Arizona’s 1st District last month. She’s challenging Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran in a Leans Democratic race. In California’s open 49th District, Republican Diane Harkey, an elected member of the California State Board of Equalization, is running against lawyer Mike Levin in a Tilts Democratic contest.
The odds look tougher for Maryland Republican Amie Hoeber, who’s running for the open 6th District after losing the race in 2016. She’s facing the largest self-funder in House race history in a Solid Democratic race. Republican Elizabeth Heng is challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Costa in California’s 16th District, but Inside Elections rates the race Solid Democratic.