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Women won more seats than ever before in the U.S. House after a record number of female candidates were on ballots across the country, fueled by Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump.

With some races yet to be decided, 96 women had been elected to the House as of Wednesday. That surpasses the record of 84 women set by the current Congress. Women could at best gain one seat in the Senate, potentially beating the record 23 women now in the chamber.

Before Tuesday's elections, women made up a record 20 percent of Congress -- 23 percent of the Senate and 19 percent of the House. More women ran in congressional primaries this year than ever before, mostly as Democrats. Many were spurred by the #MeToo movement along with wider fallout from the 2016 election, in which the first female major party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, faced attacks based on her gender.

Among women newly elected to Congress on Tuesday are a core group with backgrounds in national security work or the military.

At least five of those women won key races that helped Democrats take control of the House. In Virginia, former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger and retired Navy Commander Elaine Luria beat Republican incumbents. Air Force veteran Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey also flipped seats for Democrats.

Air Force veteran and Republican Rep. Martha McSally was leading in the contest to be the first woman elected to the Senate from Arizona. In Texas, Iraq war veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is in a deadlocked race with Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a former CIA officer, who is leading by less than 1,000 votes.

They'll join a veterans caucus of more than 100 that includes Sens. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, and Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican.

Other candidates like Jennifer Wexton in Virginia and Angie Craig in Minnesota helped Democrats win Republican-held seats in the suburbs.

There were 15 Democratic women running on Senate ballots along with eight Republicans. In five states -- Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Washington and Wisconsin -- female candidates challenged sitting female senators.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota lost their races, while Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. Nevada now has two female senators after Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated incumbent Republican Dean Heller.

"On a night when women are winning up and down the ballot this is a historic night for us because now Nevada joins to be the fifth state with two women senators," Rosen said during her victory speech.

There are now more women governors, as well. Women were newly elected in Michigan, South Dakota, New Mexico, Kansas, and Maine, bringing the total number of female state executives to nine, matching the record set in 2004. Democrat Janet Mills of Maine and Republican Kristi Noem of South Dakota are the first women elected as governor in their state.

In the House, 71 incumbent women were running for re-election, 46 were running for open seats and 120 were challenging sitting House members, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In all, 237 were candidates for the House, including 185 Democrats and 52 Republicans.

The new class of women elected to the 116th Congress will add gender and racial diversity to the body overall and to their state-level delegations.

Texas, which has never sent a Hispanic woman to Congress, elected two Tuesday night: Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, both Democrats.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old Hispanic activist who won a surprising primary victory against a 10-term male incumbent, is the youngest woman elected to Congress.

Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old member of the Boston City Council who scored a similar upset win, is the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. And Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, will be Connecticut's first black woman elected to Congress.

Voters in two states also elected the country's first Muslim women to the House: Rashida Tlaib, a former state legislator running in Detroit, and Ilhan Omar, a state legislator running in Minneapolis. Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee, will be the first Somali-American in Congress. Democrats Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of New Mexico became the first American Indian women elected to Congress.

A Section on 11/08/2018

Print Headline: Women capture a record number U.S. House seats

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