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Republican women make gains.


Record numbers of Republican women took their seats in state capitols as legislatures across the nation convened their '95 sessions. The GOP tide that swept the nation in Election '94 helped Republican women win, but the total number of women legislators decreased slightly from 1,547 in 1994 to 1,533 in '95.

Twenty-one percent of all state lawmakers in 1995 are women including 848 Democrats (22 percent of all Democratic legislators) and 669 Republicans (19 percent of the state GOP lawmakers). Twelve women were elected in nonpartisan races, and four were third-party candidates.

Republican women will increase their ranks by 87 while Democrats lost 104 seats nationwide. While the GOP gained seats and took control of legislatures around the country, Republican women make up a smaller proportion of their party's legislators.

All told, 340 women serve as state senators, and 1,193 women are numbered among the 5,440 state representatives across the nation.

In the midst of major changes forced by the electorate, there seemed no evident backlash against female candidates. While the number of women seeking office, 2,275, declined by 100 from the 1992 high of 2,375, the success rate did not drop. Women running for legislative seats in 1994 won at a marginally higher rate of 59 percent than did the 58 percent in 1992.

Republican women fared unusually well in legislative races whether as incumbents, challengers or seeking open seats, according to the Center for the American Woman and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers. The GOP won 66 percent of its races compared with 54 percent for Democratic women.

Especially striking, the center says, was the GOP women's success compared with that of the Democrats in challenging incumbents. Republicans defeated incumbents in 25 percent of their races while Democratic challengers won in only 4 percent of their races.

Among the states, Washington maintains its status of having the highest proportion of women legislators at 39.5 percent of the Legislature. Alabama remains at the bottom with 4.3 percent. The 10 states with the highest percentage of women lawmakers are: Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Idaho, Maine and Kansas.

The lowest numbers can be found in Alabama followed by Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, New Jersey, South Carolina and Arkansas.

"While Republican success was the big story of the 1994 elections," notes CAWP Director Ruth Mandel, "detailed analysis of results reveals that women in each party can find different reasons for encouragement and concern. Taking the long view, both parties can cite progress for women, but in neither have women achieved anything like full representation."

Since 1969, the number of women serving in state legislatures has increased fivefold.

On the national scene, women will hold a record number of seats - eight - in the U.S. Senate. Five Democrats and three Republicans, 8 percent of the U.S. Senate, took office, representing seven states.

The number of women in the U.S. House of Representatives holds steady at 47, 10.8 percent of congressional representatives. The women, 30 Democrats and 17 Republicans, represent 23 states.

Records also were set in the number of statewide executive offices occupied in '95 by women - 85 - but the number of women governors dropped from four to one. Nineteen women now serve as lieutenant governors. Thirty-seven Democrats, 45 Republicans and three nonpartisan women were elected to state offices. Other record numbers of women will serve as comptrollers/controllers (three), chief state education officials (11), labor commissioners (two) and public service commissioners (three).

The partisan balance has shifted at all these levels with substantial increases in the numbers of women from the GOP, according to CAWP.
Women in State Legislatures

States with Highest Percentage of Women Legislators

State % Women

Washington 39.5
Nevada 34.9
Colorado 32.0
Arizona 30.0
New Hampshire 30.0
Vermont 29.4
Maryland 28.7
Idaho 28.6
Maine 27.4
Kansas 27.3

States with Lowest Percentage of Women Legislators

State % Women

Alabama 4.3
Kentucky 8.0
Louisiana 9.7
Oklahoma 10.7
Virginia 11.4
Pennsylvania 11.5
Mississippi 11.5
New Jersey 11.7
South Carolina 12.4
Arkansas 12.6

Source: Center for the American Woman and Politics

Dianna Gordon is an assistant editor of State Legislatures. For more information on women in the '94 election, call the Center for the American Woman and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, (908) 828-2210.
COPYRIGHT 1995 National Conference of State Legislatures
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Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:record numbers elected to state legislatures in 1994 elections
Author:Gordon, Dianna
Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Feb 1, 1995
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