By Colleen Flaherty
Friday, October 8, 2010
Women's numbers in the U.S. Senate are unlikely to budge much from the current 17. What could change is party composition as Democratic women who thundered into office in 1992 face a tough year for incumbency.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- Women have a chance to nudge up their numbers in the U.S. Senate in November, but it's not a year to expect any great gains. A decline is quite possible.
A looming question of these midterm 2010 elections is the extent to which female senators--now numbering 13 Democrats and four Republicans–will shift to the GOP side of the aisle.
Of the Senate's 17 female members, six are up for re-election. One of these races won't affect the female headcount because the race is between two women.
Eight women, meanwhile, are running either as challengers or for open seats against male rivals.
Those figures create the possibility for women's numbers to decline by as many as five or rise by as many as seven. With women's overall numbers currently low, just a few races could swing the results either way.
As the following quick look at the 14 races involving female candidates indicates, the elections are more likely to shuffle the partisan deck than drastically change the totals.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) and Carly Fiorina (R), California: The incumbent and the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, respectively, won't change the women's headcount, but politically speaking it's high stakes.
Republicans are hoping to take this traditionally Democratic seat with help from an anti-incumbent national mood and Fiorina's deep campaign pockets. The New York Times reported $5.5 million of Fiorina's own savings went into her primary win. Endorsed by Sarah Palin, she opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Boxer was elected alongside three other Democratic women in 1992, the so-called Year of the Women for the big boost that election gave to female lawmakers. Boxer is a steadfast supporter of reproductive rights and health care reform. She authored the original Violence Against Women Act as a member of the House of Representatives. Click here for latest polling data.
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