More Iowa women run for federal office in 2020

CATEGORIES: September 2020, Voices

This year could be a record-breaker for Iowa, with women making up the majority of general election candidates running for federal office.

Three of the five federal races are between two women. Incumbent Joni Ernst (R) is competing against Theresa Greenfield (D) to represent Iowa in the U.S. Senate. In Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, Abby Finkenauer (D) is defending her seat against Ashley Hinson (R), and two women, Rita Hart (D) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R), are vying for the open seat in the 2nd district. Cindy Axne (D) also defends her 3rd district seat against a male challenger, David Young (R), who held that seat from 2015-2019.

Ernst became the first woman to represent Iowa in Washington, D. C., in 2014, and in 2018 Iowa elected its first two women to the U.S. House of Representatives, Axne and Finkenauer.

“There aren’t as many women running for state office in Iowa as in 2018, but there are more running for federal office and winning,” said Kelly Winfrey, coordinator of research and outreach at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “It is entirely possible that Iowa’s congressional delegation will be 80% female,” said Winfrey.

Overall there are fewer candidates running in federal and state legislative races in 2020 than in 2018. There were 267 primary candidates in 2020 compared to 305 in 2018. Of those running in 2020, about 32% were women, which is about the same percentage as 2018.

“The good news is women continue to win at equal or better rates than men,” said Winfrey. Women primary candidates won nearly 84% of their races compared to 77% of men winning. Many primary races are unopposed, but of those with opponents, women still faired significantly better than men.

Graph showing candidate gender by office

The general election will include 83 women running for federal and state legislative offices. That number includes women running as Democrats, Republicans and third-party candidates.

Women make up 35% of all legislative candidates on the general election ballot in Iowa. Women make up 75% of U.S. Senate candidates, 56% of U.S. House candidates, and 34% of candidates for the state legislature.

The percentage of female state legislative candidates is similar to 2018 when women made up 35%, but women make up a greater percentage of U.S. House candidates in 2020. Women were only 12% of U.S. House candidates in 2018. There was no U.S. Senate race in Iowa in 2018, but women did make up 32% of candidates running for state executive offices, including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state auditor.

For more information on the gender makeup of primary and general election candidates, visit the Catt Center’s Women in Iowa Politics Database.