Women of the U.S. unite: there is now a record number of women in Congress.
With the election of Republican Debbie Lesko in Tuesday’s special election for Arizona’s 8th district, the number of women in U.S. Congress will reach a high of 107. That includes 78 Democrats and 29 Republicans, constituting 20% of congressional seats for the first time in history.
A total of 84 women or 19.3% will serve as voting members of the House of Representatives—61 Democrats and 23 Republicans. This does not include the five women who are currently serving as non-voting delegates in the House.
While the total representation of women in Congress overall is at a new high, the 84 in the House does not mark a record on its own. In both of the previous two Congresses, there were also 84 women represented, until the death of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y) in March of this year.
The Senate is where women are really picking up ground. The appointment of Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in January brought the total number of women in the Senate to 22, a new record. Smith replaced Sen. Al Franken, also a Democrat, who resigned his seat after allegations of sexual misconduct. Women now make up 23% of the Senate, with 17 Democrats and five Republicans. There are currently four states that have women serving as both sitting senators: California, New Hampshire, Washington, and Minnesota.
Like Smith, Lesko’s election was prompted by the exit of a disgraced legislator. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, resigned in December amid allegations that he had offered to pay a staffer $5 million to carry his child as a surrogate.
Once sworn in, Lesko will be only the second Republican woman elected to Congress from Arizona. The first, Rep. Martha McSally, was elected in 2014. Lesko’s the seventh woman ever elected to the House from the state. Arizona has never sent a woman to the Senate.
The U.S. currently ranks 102nd globally in terms of female representation in the federal legislature. The 2017 global average of seats held by women was 24%, meaning the U.S. still lags behind. But with a record number of women running for office in the November midterm election cycle, it may see the scales inch further toward equilibrium.
This story has been updated to reflect that Smith was appointed to her Senate seat, not elected.