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Report Shows Women Ran, Won, and Donated in Record Numbers in 2020

December 22, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, of New Jersey.

A joint report from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics, non-profit organizations dedicated to researching and tracking election finance, reveals that women participated in record numbers during the 2020 election cycle. 

There are several key highlights derived from the report as well as from a previous joint report from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics. They are: 

  • Between 2016 and 2020, the percentage of women candidates in gubernatorial and state legislative races saw a jump, from 25% to 32%. 
  • At least 142 women will hold seats in the next Congress, an all-time high. 
  • In 2020 races for the U.S. House and Senate, women candidates outraised men on average, while also nearly closing the gap in state-level contests. 
  • In 2020 races, women accounted for 33% of donations to congressional candidates and 31% of donations to state-level candidates, both records. 

When it comes to the increase in women candidates, the report notes that the trend is a continuation from the 2018 midterm elections, a record year in women running for office. 

Additionally, the report explains that most of the percentage gains were for women running as Democrats, with Democratic women making up, “44% of all Democratic candidates in 2020, up from 33% in 2016.” 

Democratic women were not the only ones who made significant gains in holding political office. 

According to the report, “Republican women also made gains in state races, though they were less pronounced. Women made up nearly 23% of 2020 Republican candidates, up from 18% in 2016.” 

Republican women made the biggest candidacy gain as challengers. “In 2016, nearly 19% of Republican challengers were women. That figure jumped to 27% in this year’s elections,” stated the report. 

While Republican women made gains as challengers, Democratic women showed consistent gains across the board as incumbents, challengers, and those running for open seats. 

Moving beyond the percentage increases for women in gubernatorial and state legislative races, the report discusses the gender parity gap in Congress. 

The report notes that while Congress has a long way to go to reach full gender parity, the 2020 election cycle did edge the legislative body closer to the goal.

“Congress made slight gains toward gender parity this cycle, due to the successes of both Republican and Democratic women in the House,” states the report. 

“In 2020 general election races, women made up 28% of House candidates and 25% of Senate candidates, both historic highs. That’s a shift from the 2016 election cycle, when 17% of congressional candidates were women.” 

When broken down by party, the report found that both parties made significant gains in the number of women running for the House of Representatives in particular. This year, 46% of all Democratic House candidates were women. Meanwhile, the proportion of Republican House women candidates “doubled to 22%” since 2016. 

When it comes to fundraising, the report’s analysis showed that women outraised their male counterparts in congressional races, and nearly matched men’s fundraising in state-level contests. 

For House candidates, women overall raised an average of $1.2 million, whereas men averaged nearly $820,000. For the Senate, women’s overall average was $6.2 million raised, while men averaged $5.8 million. 

Despite these higher averages in fundraising for women, the report emphasized that raising the most money for campaigns did not necessarily equal success in candidacy.

“It’s important to keep in mind that even when the amount of money candidates are able to raise and spend is equal between candidates, previous research has shown it takes even more money for women, especially women of color, to win elections,” emphasized the joint report. 

The report continues further stating, “In other words, women running for office are often required to raise more money than their male counterparts to achieve the same levels of success.” 

Besides raising money, women also donated to races in record numbers on a state and federal level. 

For state candidates, women made up “nearly 31% of 2020 donations, up from roughly 24% in the 2016 and 2012 contests.” 

On a state level, women candidates relied heavily on female donors, with 46% of women choosing to donate to women candidates. 

At the same time, on a federal level, contributions for federal races rose to 33% from women donors, a historic high compared to previous election cycles. 

Full details on the report can be read online via opensecrets.org

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