2010 – NOT the year of the woman

So the starting point for this diary was another diary, which I can’t seem to find, but which I remember from the heady days of early 2009, when Dems seemed poised to pull a 1934 (at least in the Senate) and gain seats for the third cycle in a row. This diarist made the point that with such candidates as Katherine Sebelius in Kansas, Janet Napolitano in Arizona, Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio and Christy Vilsack in Iowa, 2010 was poised to be a true year of the woman in politics, and particularly Democratic woman.

Yeah, well, that didn’t happen.

So how’d women do in 2010. Well, Democratic women did terribly in general, but for women overall, there was the (kinda) good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s review.  

The (kinda) good – the Governors

The Governors races were a mixed bag for women, which qualifies as good. The three losses were all due to retirements (Jodi Rell, Jennifer Granholm and Linda Lingle) and were balanced by three wins – Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. The later two are women of color, and regardless of your view of politics it’s kind of cool to see a woman of Indian descent governing the state where the civil war started. Of course, all these were Republicans. There were some big losses for women as well, notably Meg Whitman in California, Karen Handel in Georgia and (from my perspective, the most heartbreaking), Alex Sink in Florida. Still, women held their own, and given there wasn’t a huge amount of potential for women beyond the California, Georgia and Florida’s races, I’m going to label the governor’s results good.

The Bad – the Senate

Women held their own in the Senate – there will still be 17 Senators in the next session of Congress, with Kelly Ayotte replacing Blanche Lincoln. But given the potential: Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Elaine Marshall in North Carolina, Jennifer Brunner in Ohio, Roxanne Conlin in Iowa, Sharon Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Jane Norton in Colorado as well as earlier in the cycle, Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, not to mention the candidates who didn’t run, holding their own was certainly not a good result. Women can take comfort from some of major retentions: Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, Kirsten Gillibrand and probably the biggest win other than Ayotte, Lisa Murkowski (possibly the most gratifying win considering what a major ass**** Joe Miller turned out to be). But overall, the results were bad, considering the optimism that people had two years ago for this cycle.

The Ugly – The House

Here’s all you need to know: according to the Center for American Women in Politics, the number of women in the House will drop for the first time since 1979. That’s right: while nine Republican women won (and no incumbent Republican women lost House races), 10 Democratic women lost. The number of women in the House goes from 73 to 72. In addition to that, Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government, will lose her position come January.


So, yeech, right? Beyond the ugly numbers, there were a couple of interesting victories. Vicky Hartzler took out the reigning chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, scoring one of the bigger upsets of the cycle (and I’m a progressive, but does anyone think this would have gotten more publicity if the parties were reversed?). Jaime Herrera was the first Republican woman of Latino heritage elected outside of Florida. Renee Ellmers took out a seven term Dem Rep in North Carolina. And Colleen Hanabusa not only became the only Democratice women to oust a Republican incumbent, but made Hawaii the first state with more than one seat to have an all woman House delegation.

But still, yeech.

The future – 2012

For the governors races in 2012, things don’t look great. Bev Purdue in North Carolina is one of the more unpopular incumbents, and Christine Gregorie is in a little better shape but has not announced whether she will run for a third term in Washington.

The good news about the Senate is that only two female incumbents, Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Kay Bailey Hutchinson in Texas look to be in any sort of trouble, and the latter will likely retire. Feel free to speculate who might be some potential female challengers for the Senate.

We can only hope the House elections go better in 2012. Certainly quality candidates like Ann Kuster in New Hampshire are likely to run again and hopefully win. It feels like it can’t get worse than this year.  

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