Republican Women Leaders – Not So Rare Anymore

November 8, 2010 05:48

Long seen as the “good ol’ boy party”, the GOP undeniably showed during this year’s midterms the rising presence and influence of women in the Party.

The Americano

From Sarah Palin’s “Mama Grizzlies” to powerful business women, the Republican Party revealed a strengthening female voice in the 2010 midterms. Long seen as the “good ol’ boy party”, the GOP undeniably showed during this year’s midterms the rising presence and influence of women in the Party.

While the Democratic Party still holds a significant lead over Republicans in terms of female representatives, the Republican Party made important gains towards a more diverse and representative composition of its political leadership

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, at least 70 women will be seated in the House this January. Of the 70, 47 are Democrats and 23 are Republicans. An additional four women are in races too close to call (2 are Republicans and 2 are Democrats). In the Senate 15 or 17 women will be seated, depending on the final counts in Washington state and Alaska. 11 or 12 female Democratic Senators will be seated alongside 4 or 5 female Republican Senators. Although the races have not been called, Democrat Senator Patty Murray is leading in Washington (with 71 percent of precincts reporting) and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is leading tea party candidate Joe Miller as a write-in with 41 percent of the vote.

Traditionally, women have voted more with the Democratic Party than Republicans. In 2008, Democrats captured 56 percent of the vote. This year, however, the vote was more evenly split, but still breaking slightly in favor Democrats, who got 49 percent of the vote and Republicans getting 48 percent.

One of the areas the GOP beat Democrats in terms of female election victories was governorships. Three women were elected governors, and all were Republicans: Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, and Nikki Haley of South Carolina. All three women are the first female governors in their state.

Susana Martinez’s election was also nationally historical: she became the first Hispanic woman to hold the position of governor in any state. Martinez’s victory was accompanied by two other prominent Republican victories of Hispanic candidates: Brian Sandoval and Marco Rubio. Sandoval won the governorship of Nevada and Marco Rubio took the Florida Senate seat. There are two other current female governors, bring the total governorships held by women beginning in 2011 to 6.

Nikki Haley of South Carolina became the second elected governor of Indian-American descent. The first was also a Republican: the current governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. Haley faced a rough campaign season, facing questions and accusations ranging from her commitment to Christianity, to her qualities to lead as a woman and mother, to extramarital affairs rumors.

She said in her victory speech Tuesday night, “You know, tomorrow morning there’s going to be a lot of news and a lot of observers that say we made history and in some ways, you can look at me and say we did. But what I want this to be is that we’re turning a page. We’re turning a page on where we’ve been but the history’s going to be on where we go.”

Much to the disappointment of the GOP, the two business experienced women running in California were not able to pull out victories. Meg Whitman lost her bid for governor to Jerry Brown, and Carly Fiorina lost to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer. Both women were former CEO’s: Whitman for eBay and Fiorina for H&P. Their private sector experience was seen as a formidable competitive edge during a time of such economic concern, but the connection with California voters, was not strong enough in the end.

Although the victories of Whitman and Fiorina would have been highly prized political trophies, their defeat is not a total loss. Collectively, the wide range of women running on the Republican ticket presented a new image of the Party to the country – an image of female achievement, promotion of female ambition, and diversity, both gender based and ethnically.

The Americano / Agencies

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