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  • Writer's pictureThe Ascend Fund

Initial Post-Election Analysis


While we continue to wait for results of the presidential election, we can celebrate women across the country, up and down the ballot, that made history and broke records. The successes point to the importance of a concerted strategy to recruit women with diverse backgrounds, the significant role our partners play in training women running for office, and the need for increased investment to expand gains. 


Record Narrowly Broken for Women in Congress

Although many races remain too close to call, at least 132 women will serve in the 117th Congress, beating the record of 127 women set in 2019. Even with a historic number of women elected, women will still only account for less than 24% of members of Congress. To increase the number of women in elected office, She Should Run created a starter kit with resources to help women navigate through their initial questions and concerns when considering a run for office. 

Record Number of Black Women Elected to Congress

A record 23 Black women won races for the U.S. House, narrowly surpassing the previous record of 22. Among members of the incoming freshman class is Cori Bush, a Vote Run Lead alum, who is the first Black woman to represent Missouri in Congress. Bush, a nurse and political activist, ran for office twice before defeating a 10-term incumbent in a primary election. Learn more about Vote Run Lead, which trains women to “run as you are” and Higher Heights Leadership Fund which supports Black women’s leadership.

Republican Women Gain Seats in Congress

At least 24 Republican women have been elected to the U.S. House, nearly doubling the number currently serving. A number of races remain too close to call, so it’s possible the previous record of 25, set in 2004, will be broken. More than 200 Republican women ran for the House this cycle, due to the intentional efforts by Rep. Susan Brooks, who led House recruitment, and Rep. Elise Stefanik who formed E-PAC to support Republican women in primaries. The results accentuates the need to prioritize recruitment of women on both sides of the aisle and the corresponding effect of targeted efforts and financial support.  

New Mexico Elects All Women of Color Congressional Delegation 

Voters in New Mexico elected three women of color to Congress. In the 1st district, Democrat incumbent Rep. Deb Haaland, one of first Native Americans elected in 2018, was re-elected. Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, defeated incumbent Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in the 2nd district. In the race for Rep. Ben Ray Lujàn’s open 3rd district seat, Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeated Republican Alexis Johnson, becoming the first Latina elected to represent New Mexico in Congress. New Mexico is the second state to elect an all-woman of color delegation. Hawaii was the first to do so in 1990. Check out Advance Native Political Leadership, that is creating pathways to office for Indigenous candidates, and LatinasRepresent, that is inspiring Latinas to seek public service opportunities.


Women Majority of House Members in New Mexico

With the election of 37 women to the New Mexico House of Representatives, women will hold a majority of the 70 seats in the upcoming session. Although the number of women serving in the state senate also increased, from nine to 12, women will only account for 29% of the 42 state senators. Overall, 86 women ran for the state legislature in New Mexico this year, including 48 Democrats and 38 Republicans. This shattered the previous record of 51 set in 2012. In 2018, Colorado also elected a female majority to the state house. Nevada is the only state to achieve gender parity in both bodies of their state legislature. 

LGBTQ Women Elected in Rainbow Wave

More than 1,000 LGBTQ people ran for office in 2020, shattering the previous record of just over 700 set in 2018. Notably, the number of trans women elected increased with wins by Stephanie Byers, Kansas State House District 86; Sarah McBride, Delaware State Senate District 1; and Taylor Small, Vermont State House District Chittenden 6-7. Mauree Turner became the first nonbinary person to be elected to a state legislature, winning a seat in the Oklahoma State House. Explore Victory Institute’s Out for America interactive map of LGBTQ elected officials nationwide. 

New American Women Make Strides in State Legislatures

First- and second-generation American women account for less than 2% of state legislators. New American Leaders trained 62 women who ran for office in 2020, with several notable successes including Celia Gonzalez, the first openly gay Asian American elected to the Nevada Legislature and Iman Jodeh the first Muslim elected to the Colorado Legislature. Read the New American Leaders 2020 State of Representation report.  

Women Make Gains in New York State Legislature

In New York state, a record-breaking 119 women (88 Democrats & 31 Republicans) ran in the General Election for the State Assembly (87 House & 32 Senate). Fifteen races featured women running on both sides of the aisle. A few races remain too close to call, but it appears that more than 70 women won their races. The record of 70 was set in 2018. Gains would have been larger, had at least seven incumbent women not lost re-election. New American Leaders and Vote Run Lead worked jointly to train and recruit women in the state.

As we get more results, a more thorough analysis of state legislatures will be conducted. 


Women Break Records at Local Levels

In Los Angeles, five women swept elections to the Board of Supervisors, making the powerful board, which oversees a budget of $35 billion, all female for the first time in its 150-year history. A majority of the city council members in Washington, D.C. will be women. Back in 1979, the D.C. City Council was the first legislative body in the nation to achieve a female majority, but the last time women held a majority was in 1988. The Northern Cheyenne Nation elected all women to the open Tribal Council seats, including president and vice president. And in Douglas County, Kansas, the newly elected county commission is not only majority women, but majority Shannon. Run Now, a program of IGNITE National, is preparing young women to run for local office in 2021 and 2022. 


Following the first year of the woman in 1992, we saw the number of women elected to office stagnate over the next 25 years. So while we celebrate the advances women made in 2020, looking ahead we cannot settle for incremental advances in the number of women serving in political office. 

Women remain less than 30% of elected officials, in large part because they account for only one in three candidates for political office. To increase the number of women running for office, we will open our next round of grantmaking in the coming weeks. Additionally, in 2021 The Ascend Fund will pilot a 10-state initiative to compliment the work of our national partners.


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