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Women candidates won big in June primaries

In New Mexico, women are poised to win every House primary on both sides of the aisle.

Democratic congressional candidate Teresa Leger Fernandez, in the blue mask, cheers on supporters at a polling station Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
Cedar Attanasio/AP
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

The June 2 primaries were a major night for women candidates, so much so that in multiple House races in New Mexico, Indiana, and Iowa, voters will choose between two women candidates this fall.

Take New Mexico, where, according to primary results from Decision Desk, all the general election candidates for the state’s three House districts — on both sides of the aisle — are poised to be women.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small will be defending their seats in the first and second congressional districts, where former chief of staff to the Attorney General Michelle Holmes and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell will be challenging them. In the Third District, where the seat is currently open, Democrat and legal advocate Teresa Leger Fernandez could go up against Republican and engineer Alexis Johnson, though the race is still too close to call.

The candidates in Iowa’s Senate race, as well as two of the four House races, are all women, too. Real estate developer Theresa Greenfield is challenging Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in one of the most closely-watched Senate contests this fall. And incumbent US Rep. Abby Finkenauer will face off against current state Rep. Ashley Hinson, while former Democratic state Sen. Rita Hart and Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks will duke it out for an open seat in the Second District. Rep. Cindy Axne will also be defending her seat in Iowa’s Third District against former Rep. David Young.

Indiana, too, will see a few congressional races in which women candidates are on both the Republican and Democratic tickets. In Indiana’s Second District, Democrat and attorney Patricia Hackett will take on Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski, and in the Fifth District, former Democratic state Rep. Christina Hale and Republican state Sen. Victoria Spartz are competing for Rep. Susan Brooks’s old seat.

At least 11 women candidates won primaries in Pennsylvania, Montana, Maryland, and Idaho as well. Some races thus far have yet to be called.

These victories are notable because they indicate that the momentum for women candidates in 2018 is poised to continue yet again this year. Given the lack of gender parity in Congress right now — women make up roughly 24 percent of legislators — additional gains for representation in 2020 could play an important role in continuing to change this breakdown.

The recent success that women have experienced in states across the country, including many battleground districts, also highlights how the success of women lawmakers has rapidly become normalized — even in places that hadn’t elected women to Congress until more recently.

Iowa, for example, hadn’t elected a woman to Congress until 2014, when voters sent Ernst to the Senate, according to an analysis from Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. The state also hadn’t elected women to the House until 2018; after this year’s election, three of the four House seats could be held by women.