New maps pose challenge to women seeking re-election

CHICAGO ( Associated Press) — Democrats took control of the US House of Representatives in 2018 thanks to the record shown by Democratic female candidates. Two years later, a record number of GOP women won seats, bringing the number of women in the chamber to a historic high.

But for some of the women office-bearers running for re-election this year, staying in their seats comes with a new challenge: redrawing Congress districts that will be difficult to conquer.

It is too early to know how many women representatives were hurt over a decade by a process known as redistribution – in which borders are redrawn based on census data to ensure equal-sized districts – because Many states have not finalized their maps. But in states with new district boundaries, the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University has so far found more than a dozen women who are walking into tough territory. This is more than double the number of districts that would be significantly easier to conquer after redistribution, this month’s analysis found.

The new maps mean that some female representatives are seeking re-election against long-serving men — or against each other, as in Georgia’s Tuesday primary, where two Democratic female incumbents face off. Huh. Ultimately, the new maps will factor into whether women maintain or increase their numbers in the next Congress in order to more accurately reflect the make-up of the country, a target members of both parties have focused on. Currently, female representatives make up about 28% of the 435 House members, with Democratic women holding almost three times the number of seats as GOP women.

Many of those women are already vulnerable because they were recently elected and don’t have the benefits of being in power for a long time, such as fundraising and name recognition, said Kelly Dietmar, director of research for the center. . They also often won in swing districts, areas where there is a high probability of passing from one party to another.

“2022 is an important year to understand how these recently chosen women are going to perform,” Dietmar said.

In Illinois, which lost a seat in the redistribution due to its shrinking population, the state’s two first-time female representatives—one Democrat, one Republican—were among the biggest losers of the 18-member delegation in the state’s remapping.

Democratic mapmakers drew new limits, which Democratic Rep. Mary Newman and Republican Rep. Mary Miller in districts already represented by male incumbents. Both women chose instead to run in neighboring districts over other men. (House members are not required to live in the district they represent, although most do.)

Newman is a progressive man who undefeated Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last anti-abortion Democrats, in Congress in 2020. Last fall, Illinois legislators liquidated the largely Chicago-area district they represented because they created a new predominantly Hispanic district to reflect the population advantage. A large portion of Newman’s district was drawn into a neighboring district, represented by two-term Democratic Representative Sean Castane.

Newman’s home, and the area around it where she put up her best performance in 2020, were drawn into the heavily Hispanic district represented by Democratic Representative Jesus “Chuy” García. That, Newman said, “I took personal.”

She thinks it was payback. “Too many corporations, too many establishment people, they still seem mad at me,” she told the audience at a fundraiser this month.

In an interview, Newman said she believed the Democratic legislators responsible for the new map felt it was expendable because she was the most recently elected incumbent. She said having more women in Congress is “gravely important,” especially at a time when abortion rights are under threat. The US Supreme Court is expected to overturn the landmark 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

“You can’t have an unqualified man out there. But if there’s a qualified woman, I think you really have to look at that and say, ‘We need more women’s voices in Congress, period,’ ‘” said Newman, who recently released a campaign ad in which she discusses having an abortion at age 19. “I strongly believe that if there were 50 to 100 more women in Congress and the Senate, we wouldn’t be in this situation … (Roe) would have been codified and irreversible.”

Of course, not all women support the right of abortion to be codified, or put into federal law. Among the staunch opponents in the House is Miller, who said she was inspired by then-President Donald Trump for her southern Illinois seat in 2020.

Miller was drafted in the same congressional district as fellow Conservative Representative Mike Bost for which Trump campaigned in 2018. Instead of running against him, Miller opted to run in a nearby district against five-term Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, who supported one. Bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 uprising at the US Capitol. Trump has endorsed Miller.

Another female Republican, first-time Representative Yvette Herrell of New Mexico, was also the victim of a partisan remap, as the Democrats who control the Legislature redrawn her district in the southern part of the state to be significantly more Democratic. .

Dietmar said it is not yet clear whether redistribution at a higher rate than male incumbents has negatively impacted women, many of whom also face more difficult elections.

In some cases, women are being challenged by other functionaries whose districts were made up for their loss. That’s the case in Michigan, where Democratic Rep. Andy Levine chose to contest against Representative Haley Stevens in her secure Democratic district, not the area she currently represents, which an independent commission attracted to contest more.

And in Georgia, at least one female incumbent will lose her bid for a second term after Tuesday’s primary session. Reps. Lucy McBath and Caroline Bordeaux both flipped long-time GOP-held districts in the Atlanta area in recent election cycles. But after Republicans who control the state legislature redraw Macbath’s district in favor of Republicans, the two-term incumbent decided to take Bordeaux for the first time in a more Democrat-friendly district.

Some women are benefiting from shakeups. In Oklahoma, the district of GOP Representative Stephanie Bice in the Oklahoma City area—formerly Democratic Rep. The center – held by Horn – was revamped to be significantly more Republican.

For candidates facing a tough election, this is often a familiar premise.

“I just have to prove myself again,” Newman said.

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