Six Women Who May Make History in the Midterms

By Erin Spencer Sairam

Women are poised to achieve new firsts in the 2022 midterm elections in November, potentially building on the history-making wave of lawmakers who won office in 2018, when Congress welcomed the first Muslim and first Native American congresswomen, and Arizona and Tennessee sent women to the Senate for the first time.

Here are some big potential firsts to watch out for this year.

Florida Could Elect Its First Black Female Senator

Val Demings, a rising star in Democratic politics, is making a long-shot bid for Republican Marco Rubio’s Senate seat in a state that’s grown increasingly red. The state’s elections division reported 5.14 million active registered Republicans at the end of March compared with 5.03 million Democrats. What’s more, Demings has consistently trailed Rubio in the polls. Whether or not she beats the odds, Demings’ race is one Democrats are keeping a close eye on to gauge how much to invest in future elections.

North Carolina Could See Its First Black Female Senator

Cheri Beasley, who served as the state’s first Black female chief justice, aims to make history again by winning a U.S. Senate seat. Beasley and the Democrats hope to flip Senator Richard Burr’s seat in order to maintain the party’s narrow hold in the Senate. Early voting is underway and will end Saturday, with the primary election on Tuesday. Beasley appears to be the likely Democratic nominee to face Congressman Tedd Budd or former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Across party lines, though, polling is tight.

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Beasley’s fundraising has been impressive. At the close of the first quarter, she had more cash on hand than the two top Republican candidates combined. While the Republicans continue to fight each other for their party’s nomination, Beasley has been able to direct her campaign funds to the general election.

The Senate Could Welcome Its First Black Female Republican

Kathy Barnette was a long-shot candidate for Republican Pat Toomey’s open Pennsylvania Senate seat from the jump. She’s up against the TV personality and cardiothoracic surgeon Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, a former U.S. Treasury Under Secretary and the CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds. Barnette has performed well in polls even against President Trump’s preferred choice, Oz.

Barnette has captured quite a bit of attention as the future of Roe v. Wade is being considered by speaking about how she was the “byproduct of rape,” born to an 11-year-old mother. Should she continue to gain traction and secure the Republican primary next week, Barnette will move closer to becoming the Senate’s first Black female Republican.

Vermont’s First Congresswoman

The race for Vermont’s open House seat also has the potential to send the state’s first congresswoman to Washington. The Democratic primary ticket is currently dominated by women, with just one man among the five-person candidate pool. According to recent polling, Becca Balint, the State Vermont Senate president pro tempore, leads the race. Just one independent candidate and no Republican candidates appear on the ballot. Should Balint win the blue state, she would become the state’s first woman and openly gay representative in Congress.

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The House seat has been held by Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat running to succeed Senator Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving sitting senator who said last year he would not seek re-election. Women are campaigning for the job on both sides of the aisle: the emergency room doctor Niki Thran is running in the Democratic primary and Christina Nolan, a former U.S. attorney for Vermont, is running as a Republican. A late April poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire had both women running behind Welch.

Arkansas’ First Female Governor

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a former White House press secretary for Donald Trump, announced in January 2021 her bid to become governor of Arkansas. Sanders is set to face one other contender, talk show host Francis “Doc” Washburn, in the Republican primary on May 24th. Recent polls put Sanders in the lead by a large margin. Republicans control the governor’s office and both chambers of the state legislature. If Sanders wins the primary and the election in November, she will be the state’s first female governor.

On the Democratic ticket, Supha Xayprasith-Mays, a businesswoman who previously worked at the corporate headquarters for Walmart, is also making a bid for the state’s top job. Recent polling, however, puts her in last place among the Democratic primary candidates with just 1.5% compared with physicist and ordained minister Chris Jones’ 60%.

Georgia’s First Black Female Governor

After a loss in the last gubernatorial race, Stacey Abrams is again running for governor in Georgia. She’s remained the only Democrat on the ballot and had already raised $11.7 million in donations by the end of April, according to her campaign. If Abrams wins, she will become Georgia’s first Black female governor.

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Other races to watch for potential female firsts in the Senate include Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, California and Utah. In Mississippi, the state has a chance to send its first woman to the House.

Additional states that may see women enter the governorship for the first time include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Women are also running for governor in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio, where women have served but have not yet been elected.


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