This year’s midterm election, held on November 8, 2022, ushered in the 118th Congress and marked historic and notable wins for women. Although women remain disproportionately underrepresented in electoral politics compared to men, a number of women across the country broke new and uncharted ground this election cycle making progress for women in politics.
When the 118th Congress is sworn in on January 3, 2023, it will feature several historic “firsts.” They include Summer Lee, the first Black woman to be elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, representing the 12th congressional district in the House of Representatives. Delia Ramirez made history by becoming the first Latina elected to Congress from Illinois, representing the House’s 3rd congressional district. Becca Balint will become the first woman and first openly LGBTQ person to represent Vermont in Congress; with her election in Vermont, it means that each of the 50 states have finally sent at least one woman to Congress. In Colorado, Yadira Caraveo will become the first Latina to represent her state, bringing her experience as a pediatrician as well as the daughter of Mexican immigrants to the House of Representatives. Women currently comprise only 28.3% of Congress. Not only must the United States increase the number of women in elected office, we must elect a diverse array of women; the election of women of different backgrounds is often a critical driver of legislative change and progress.
Gubernatorial elections are particularly challenging for women candidates. Only 31 states in the US have elected women governors, and only 45 women total have served as governor in those states making it one of the most challenging electoral positions for women to attain. Throughout this most recent gubernatorial election, Massachusetts and Oregon made history by electing LBGTQ women governors. Maura Healy became Massachusetts’ first woman-elected governor and the first out-lesbian governor. In addition to Healy’s historic win, Tina Kotek also won Oregon’s gubernatorial election. Kotek is Oregon’s first openly lesbian governor. These landmark wins mean that Healy and Kotek are the first openly lesbian governors in U.S. history. Across the country, 25 women ran for governor in 2022, and 12 were elected – the highest number of women ever to hold the position at the same time.
Moreover, there were additional historic wins this election cycle for state executive positions. Currently, women only comprise 30.6% of statewide elected executive office; the number is even lower for women of color. Stephanie Thomas became the first Black woman elected Secretary of State in Connecticut, and Shirley Weber became the first Black Secretary of State in California. In Maryland, Aruna Miller became the first Asian-American Lieutenant Governor. Andrea Campbell became the first Black woman to be elected Attorney General of Massachusetts. And in a marquee race that garnered national attention, Los Angeles, California made history by electing Karen Bass as its new mayor. Mayor Bass, a Black woman, is the first woman and second Black person to hold a mayoral position in the city of Los Angeles.
The 2022 election will send a record number of trans and non-binary legislators to state capitols across the country. In Montana, Zooey Zephyr became the first openly trans woman elected to the state legislature. Last year, she testified before the state’s House Judiciary Committee in opposition to anti-trans legislation; now, she will make history after winning her election. She’ll be joined by SJ Howell, the first openly non-binary person elected to the Montana state legislature.
These women have made history by being elected to these offices and, come January 2023, they will take up positions of power in institutions that have historically excluded and marginalized them. IWPR looks to all of these trailblazers to continue to make history with the policies they enact and votes they take on behalf of the people they represent, even as they take up their seats in institutions founded on exclusionary principles. We also recognize the ongoing work that needs to be done, at all levels of leadership, to enable women – particularly women from historically marginalized backgrounds – not only run for office, but to stay in office.