Exactly two decades after the 1992 presidential election, sometimes called the “year of the woman” or “year of the women”, the American people have made history by electing a record number of female candidates to the nation’s upper legislative chamber. Nearly all of them are Democrats.
Voters enthusiastically reelected Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Dianne Feinstein of California.
Joining them in 2013 will be new group of Democratic women: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Republicans, meanwhile, have partially offset the retirements of Olympia Snowe in Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas with Deb Fischer’s victory in Nebraska. Fischer will join a Republican caucus with three returning women senators: Susan Collins of Maine (not up for election this year), Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. (Murkowski is technically an independent; she won reelection as a write-in candidate, but caucuses with Republicans).
The Democratic caucus will have four times as many women senators. There are six Democratic women serving in the U.S. Senate who were not up for reelection this year: Our own Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer of California, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Together with the ten Democratic women elected or reelected tonight, they will make a group of sixteen.
We are still a ways away from having a Congress that looks like the United States of America, and does the public’s business in public. But as of this January, for the first time, one fifth of the members of the U.S. Senate will be women.
That’s an important milestone for our democracy.
Institutions — whether they be public or private — function better when the leadership is diverse. Last July, Bloomberg observed that companies with women on their boards outperform companies that are run almost exclusively by old white guys. The U.S. Senate will certainly benefit from the presence of strong women leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin.
We look forward to seeing them get to work in our nation’s capital.