Women made major headway in the 2014 elections. For the first time ever, there are at least 100 women in Congress. The number will increase as the rest of yesterday’s winners take their seats in January. Who are the women elected? Here is an in-depth guide to some of the women who ran successful campaigns and came out the winners. They will join the 114th Congress in January and give women a stronger voice in the Legislature.
Alma Adams: Alma Adams is a Democrat from North Carolina. She won the House of Representatives seat vacated by Rep. Mel Watt when he took the position of director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Because it was a special election, Adams will be sworn in immediately and will become the 100th woman to serve in the 113th Congress of the United States. That still leaves a huge gender imbalance, but it is a milestone in the march forward. Adams is a champion of working families and reproductive rights. She will fight to preserve women’s access to reproductive healthcare and keep abortions legal. She will also work towards economic security for American families.
Joni Ernst: Joni Ernst is a Republican who won a Senate seat in Iowa. She is the first woman Iowans have ever sent to Washington. She will also be the first female veteran to sit in the Senate. Ernst portrays herself as a soldier, a mother and an independent who will focus on cutting government spending. She plans on bringing some Mid-western common sense and can-do attitude to Washington. She is a champion of unions and the working and middle classes. Money was poured into Iowa for this Senate race and critics worry about her ties to Koch money and her conservative social policies. She also famously said she would protect her personal rights with her 9mm handgun if she felt them threatened by the national government. Now she is part of that government.
Jeanne Shaheen: Jeanne Shaheen is a Democrat from New Hampshire. She defended her Senate seat against Scott Brown who moved to New Hampshire after losing to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in 2013. Shaheen won re-election by focusing on local issues such as jobs, utility expenses and student loans. Most voters said their main concern in 2014 is the state of the economy.
Susan Collins: Susan Collins also defended her Senate position. She is a Republican and the senior senator from Maine. She has passed legislation aimed at protecting workers and children and supports same-sex marriage.
Shelley Moore Capito: Shelley Moore Capito is a Republican newly elected to the U.S. Senate from West Virginia. She will be the first female senator from West Virginia. She is a staunch advocate of the mining and coal industries. She has proposed legislation to improve safety in mines and also to protect the coal industry from environmental regulations. She is adamantly against any sort of greenhouse gas emissions cap. She votes against environmental protects and is a climate change denier. She has passed bills to fund healthcare for children, but voted against Obamacare as she votes the party line 93 percent of the time. For example, she says she is for equal pay for men and women, but voted against any legislation to enact gender equity during her time in the House of Representatives.
Gwen Graham: Gwen Graham, a Democrat from Florida, defeated incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland for a seat in the House of Representatives. Her goal is to bring bi-partisanship to “this messed-up Congress.” She plans to work with her neighboring Republican representatives in order to represent the Florida Panhandle. She is an advocate for food and hunger issues, small farmers and families. Southerland is part of the GOP’s perceived “war on women” which may have helped propel a female Democrat into office.
Elise Stefanik: Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, bcame the youngest woman elected to Congress at the age of 30. Stefanik is a Harvard Graduate, served as an aide to George W. Bush, and prepped Paul Ryan for his VP debates. Her close ties to many high-ranking Republicans did not hurt her in the election. Stefanik wants to create opportunities for small businesses, reform and flatten the tax code to ease regulations, and repeal Obamacare. She touted herself as a fresh, young voice for Congress, but seems to toe the party line.
Mia Love: Ludmya Bourdeau Love is the first Black woman to be elected to serve in Congress as a Republican. She will represent Utah in the 114th Congress. She told supporters in Utah she will “work every day to keep the federal government out of your lives, out of your pockets, and out of your way…” Her ideals are fiscal discipline, limited government and personal responsibility. She wants local control of education and public lands. She also wants to lower taxes, increase domestic energy production and defend the 2nd Amendment.
Bonnie Watson Coleman: Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman will become the first black woman to serve as a Congressional Representative from New Jersey. Watson believes in publically funded education, investment in infrastructure to improve the economy, advancing sustainable energy policies and reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S., and continue improving the Affordable Care Act. She stands for women’s rights and LGBT rights and citizens’ rights to vote. She also is a proponent of net neutrality to keep the internet open for all users.
Voters should choose candidates based on issues rather than gender. Currently, women only compose 18.5 percent of the lawmaking body of the United States. That number might rise to over 20 percent for the 114th Congress, but that is still woefully inadequate considering that women make up more than 50 percent of the voting population. Women’s voices are starting to be heard, whether Democrat of Republican, and they are taking their place at the legislative table. Women have made headway in the 2014 elections, however, the road to gender equality in U.S. politics looks to be long and arduous.
Opinion by: Rebecca Savastio