Inside the movement that swept Republican women into Congress

Posted 8 days ago

From WWW.NBCNEWS.COM

While Democrats powered the record-breaking wave of women elected to Congress two years ago, this year's gains by Republican women are turning 2018's "pink wave" a deeper shade of red.

With two races newly called on Friday, a record total of 35 Republican women will be serving in the House and Senate next term, including 19 House freshmen - a leap over the 22 Republican women who are serving in the House and Senate now. In January, the Republican caucus will be home to the youngest Republican woman ever elected, a grandmother of 16, the party's first Korean-American Republican women in office, two daughters of Cuban immigrants, and the first Iranian-American to serve in office.

To be clear, there will be more than three times as many Democratic women in Congress next year, including at least 89 in the House and 16 in the Senate. But with this year's gains by both parties, women's representation in Congress will reach an all-time high of 27 percent of all House members, up from 23 percent this year. While one-in-four isn't parity, it's as close as the House has ever gotten.

"We're going to continue doing what we do on the congressional level to make sure that the people's House starts looking more like the people," said Julie Conway, the executive director of VIEW PAC, which works to elect more Republican women to the House and Senate. Her party is taking a victory lap this cycle because it has long taken heat for the small numbers of women and minorities in its ranks.

During this election cycle, a record 228 Republican women filed paperwork to run for office this year, shattering the previous record of 133 women in 2010. A record 94 of them made it out of the primaries to become the Republican nominees going into Election Day (again, nearly double the record set in 2004 by 53 women nominees).

RELATED: More women than ever before were elected to Congress - Here are their historic 'firsts' "It's been a long time coming," said Conway. "I think everybody's looking for the magical reason why 2020 was such a good year for Republican women, but the reality is, it's a combination of a lot of things over a lot of years... seats that were winnable, and incredible women running for those seats, and the infrastructure around them finally at a point that they were able to get at least some of the help they needed to get them over certain obstacles and then they were able to be successful because they, quite frankly, worked their tails off."

Many of this year's Republican candidates won races in key districts, flipping seats from blue to red and narrowing the balance of power in Congress' lower chamber. Republicans flipped 12 congressional seats this cycle according to the latest vote count. And out of the 12 seats that Republicans wrested from Democratic control so far this year, nine were flipped by women. Only three Republican men can say the same.

"These seats we flipped, we flipped them because they were amazing Republican women," Conway said. "If they had been amazing Republican guys, I think we lose these seats, or at least a good number of them."

While Conway is quick to give credit to the winning candidates, their successes reflect a concerted effort by Republicans to recruit, endorse, empower and invest in a more diverse slate of candidates. Groups like Conway's VIEW PAC, Rep. Elise Stefanik's E-PAC, and Winning for Women PAC leant some muscle to this year's tough fights. They're also creating a pipeline of talented Republican women to be competitive in the years to come.

"The Democrats have been so good for so long about really prioritizing women candidates and really developing a pipeline of candidates and raising funds, specifically for women candidates, and the Republicans haven't," said Meghan Milloy, co-founder and executive director of Republican Women for Progress. "There are finally Republican groups t... (Read more)