New Congress to include at least 101 women
WASHINGTON -- After winning a special election, Democrat Alma Adams of North Carolina will take office next week as the 100th female member of Congress -- the most women Congress has ever had.
It will be a short-lived record. With several races still to be called, the next Congress will have a minimum of 101 female members, including Adams, who also was elected to a two-year term starting in January.
At least 20 of them will be senators, the same number of women in the Senate now. The next Senate also will be slightly younger than the current one.
The 11 newly elected senators are an average 16 years younger than the lawmakers they are replacing -- some by decades. Four of the new senators are under 50, boosting a small contingent of Generation X members serving in the Senate. Gen X'ers follow baby boomers and were born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s.
At 37, Republican Sen.-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas is the youngest incoming senator, while Republican David Perdue of Georgia, 64, is the oldest. The average age of the new senators is 50, compared with 66 for the lawmakers they are replacing.
Elise Stefanik, a 30-year-old New York Republican, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Also making history is 38-year-old Mia Love of Utah, whose election to a suburban Salt Lake City district made her the first black female Republican to win a seat in Congress.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., won a two-year term to replace former Sen. Jim DeMint. Scott is the first African-American senator from the South since just after the Civil War.
Twenty-nine Latinos will serve in the House, the largest number ever, while the number of African-Americans in Congress will increase from 43 to at least 46, including three Republicans.
Congress, and the Senate in particular, remains overwhelmingly white and male. The average age of House members was 57 as January 2013, according to the Congressional Research Service. Senators were 62 on average at the beginning of the current Congress.
Two of the oldest senators, Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas, 78, and Thad Cochran, 77, of Mississippi, were re-elected Tuesday, as was 72-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell is expected to become majority leader.
Four women won Senate seats on Tuesday, including Iowa Republican Joni Ernst, the first woman ever in Iowa's congressional delegation and the first female veteran to serve in the Senate. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., won a promotion to the Senate, while Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, won new terms in office. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was defeated.
If Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., wins a runoff next month against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, there will be a total of 21 female senators in the next Congress, the highest ever. There currently are 20 women in the Senate.
Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, hailed the increased number of women elected to Congress, but she said gains were blunted by the general Republican tilt of the midterms.
"While Republicans won big across the country, women remain seriously underrepresented among GOP officeholders," Walsh said, noting that just six Republican women will serve in the Senate, along with 21 or 22 GOP women in the House.
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the Republican Party has "a long way to go" to increase the number of female office-holders, but said, "We've made great gains."
At a news conference Wednesday, Walden said the Republican women elected Tuesday "are a very talented group. They will help us grow the women members that we have in the next cycle. There's lot of work to do to diversify our party, to grow our party."
Drew DeSilver, a senior writer at the Pew Research Center who has studied the demographics of Congress, said the election of younger senators was not surprising, since in most cases the outgoing senator is retiring. Only three incumbents were defeated in Senate races that had been called as of Wednesday.
Still, DeSilver said the age differentials in some cases are striking. Ernst, 44, is 28 years younger than the man she replaces, longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Michigan Democrat Gary Peters, 55, is a quarter-century younger than retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin.