Democratic Leaders Look to Women to Protect House Majority

Democratic Party officials say women candidates and voters will help fortify their House majority in the November election, after 2018’s record-breaking gains, as President Donald Trump struggles in his re-election bid.

“I think women are going to do great. I think women are going to show up in huge numbers to the polls. I think they have had it with Donald Trump,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Wednesday.

She was a guest at an event on Democratic women in the 2020 election that was sponsored by the nonpartisan Women & Politics Institute at American University in Washington.

Betsy Fischer Martin (left), the executive director of the American University Women & Politics Institute, hosted a discussion with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (center) and DCCC Executive Director Lucinda Guinn (right).

Trump “was one of the best recruiters for us and he’s one of the best motivators for us,” Bustos said. “And when you break down the polling, look at suburban women and how they are just running as fast as they can away from Donald Trump and toward the Democrats running.”

Bustos said she was “very, very proud” women account for 20 of the 24 House Democratic nominees currently on the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list of competitive districts Democrats are seeking to capture from Republican control.

The 2018 election widened the partisan gap of women in the House to 89 Democrats and 13 Republicans from 64 Democrats and 23 Republicans before the election.

The successes of Democratic women helped propel their party to the majority and also spurred a record number of Republican women to run for Congress this year. Republicans need a net gain of 17 seats to win back the majority.

For More:GOP Donors Urged to Put Money Behind 2020 Women House Candidates

Even with a surge in GOP women, Democrats still have the edge. There are 350 Democratic women who have filed for House seats this year compared with 224 Republican women, and 128 Democratic women have advanced to the November election compared with 59 Republican women, according to statistics from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. The numbers will rise as states complete candidate filing periods and primaries.

Top Democratic Recruits

In the discussion moderated by Betsy Fischer Martin, the executive director of the Women & Politics Institute, Bustos and DCCC Executive Director Lucinda Guinn discussed some of the Democratic women running in key House races. Many are seeking seeking suburban districts and running again after losing in 2018.

Some have backgrounds in education and are emphasizing personal stories with health care as they defend the Affordable Care Act and advocate for improvements.

Hiral Tipirneni (Arizona’s 6th District): Tipirneni, a physician, is opposing Rep. David Schweikert (R) in a Republican-leaning district that includes parts of Phoenix and Scottsdale. Tipirneni lost twice in 2018 to Debbie Lesko (R) in the more strongly Republican 8th District.

Christy Smith (California’s 25th District): Smith, a California assemblywoman and former local school board member, was decisively defeated by Republican Mike Garcia in a May special election in a competitive district in northern Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County.

Bustos said Smith is “revamping her campaign” after her 10-point loss in a mostly vote-by-mail election. She added that Democrats would benefit from a high-turnout presidential election and from a Garcia voting record that would be “intertwined” with Trump, who lost the district in 2016 by more than 6 points.

Carolyn Bourdeaux (Georgia’s 7th District): Bourdeaux, an educator, is again seeking a diverse suburban Atlanta district after almost unseating Rep. Rob Woodall (R) in the 2018 election. Woodall isn’t seeking re-election and the Republican nominee is Rich McCormick, a Marine veteran and emergency room doctor.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (Illinois’ 13th District): Londrigan is in a rematch with Rep. Rodney Davis (R), who won their 2018 race by less than a percentage point. In both campaigns Londrigan invoked the experience of her son, who almost died from a rare infection, in calling for bolstering the ACA.

Christina Hale (Indiana’s 5th District): Hale, a former state representative, is seeking the metropolitan Indianapolis district of retiring Republican Susan Brooks. The district leans Republican, though it’s the sort of well-educated, upper-income suburban district where GOP dominance has waned during Trump’s presidency. Hale, who is Cuban American, is up against Republican state Sen. Victoria Spartz, who was born in Ukraine.

Hillary Scholten (Michigan’s 3rd District): Scholten is a lawyer seeking to succeed Rep. Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party last year and became a Libertarian in April. Republicans will nominate their candidate in a primary on Aug. 4. Amash hasn’t said if he will run for re-election as a Libertarian in a district that includes Grand Rapids.

Jill Schupp (Missouri’s 2nd District): Schupp, a state senator, is opposing Rep. Ann Wagner (R), who was re-elected 51%-47% in 2018 in a suburban St. Louis district.

Kathleen Williams (Montana’s At-Large District): Williams, a former state representative, is up against state Auditor Matt Rosendale for the statewide district Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) is leaving open to run for governor. Williams lost to Gianforte by 5 percentage points in 2018.

Kara Eastman (Nebraska’s 2nd District): Eastman, a nonprofit executive, is in a rematch with Rep. Don Bacon in an Omaha-anchored district where Bacon won 51%-49% in 2018.

Amy Kennedy (New Jersey’s 2nd District): Kennedy, a mental-health advocate and former teacher, is opposing party-switching Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R) in a Republican-leaning district in the southernmost part of the state.

Jackie Gordon (New York’s 2nd District): Gordon is a military veteran and former guidance counselor running for the mildly Republican-leaning Long Island district of retiring Republican Pete King. Her Republican opponent is Andrew Garbarino, a state assemblyman. Gordon is Black.

Dana Balter (New York’s 24th District): Balter, a progressive activist and educator, is in a rematch of a 2018 race that Rep. John Katko (R) won by 5 percentage points. Trump lost the Syracuse-based district in 2016.

Kate Schroder (Ohio’s 1st District): Schroder, a former vice president for the Clinton Health Access Initiative and a cancer survivor, is seeking to unseat veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in the Cincinnati area.

Wendy Davis (Texas’ 21st District): Davis is opposing first-term Rep. Chip Roy (R) in a district that includes parts of Austin and San Antonio. As a Texas state senator in 2013, Davis attracted national attention and a fundraising base after her long filibuster against an anti-abortion bill. She was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, winning about 39% of the vote.

Gina Ortiz Jones (Texas’ 23rd District): Jones, a military veteran, came within one-half of a percentage point in 2018 of unseating Rep. Will Hurd (R), who isn’t seeking re-election in a Hispanic-majority border district that Trump lost in 2016. Republicans will choose their nominee in a July 14 runoff primary.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

Top