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Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains

The House is set to have record numbers of women and racial minorities in the new Congress, but most of that diversity will come on the Democratic side of the aisle despite notable GOP gains in November’s election.

House Republicans currently don’t have any Asian Americans or female Native American members in their voting ranks, but that will change starting in January, when they’ll also have a record number of women.

Yet none of the Black female lawmakers set to take office in the 117th Congress will be Republicans, who have never had more than a handful of Black members in recent years.

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The overall makeup of Congress next year will still be predominantly white and male. That’s especially true on the GOP side, even as the party stepped up efforts this cycle to boost female candidates.

“It had been persistent even prior to 2018. And then this year, you’re starting to see at least some closing, even if that gap persists between parties,” said Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics.

“It is much more likely and much more possible for us to get to parity, and to get to parity more quickly, if you see an increase in representation of women on both sides of the aisle,” Dittmar said.

At least 141 women will be serving in the next session of Congress that starts in January, but that only amounts to about 26 percent of all members. And of those women, all but 36 are Democrats.

There are currently 13 women in the House GOP conference. That figure is set to grow to at least 28, with a number of races yet to be called. House Democrats, meanwhile, set a record in 2019 with 89 women and that number is expected to hold in 2021.

Exit polling indicates that the divergent numbers stem from the two parties’ bases of support.

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While a majority of white voters backed President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE, wide margins of Black, Hispanic, Asian and other voters supported President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE.

A majority of female voters also backed Biden, while a majority of men — particularly white men — cast their ballots for Trump.

No other racial group supported Biden more overwhelmingly than Black Americans, especially Black women, with exit polls showing support for the former vice president at close to 90 percent.

To date, just one Black GOP woman has ever served in Congress: former Rep. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains McAdams concedes to Owens in competitive Utah district Poll: McAdams neck and neck with GOP challenger in Utah MORE, who represented a swing district in Utah from 2015 to 2019.

There are currently only two Black Republicans in Congress: Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Pfizer unveils detailed analysis of COVID-19 vaccine & next steps GOP senators congratulate Harris on Senate floor MORE (S.C.) and Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (Texas), who is retiring. House Republicans will have at least two Black members next year in Reps.-elect Byron Donalds (Fla.) and Burgess Owens (Utah). Owens flipped the seat back to Republicans by defeating the Democratic incumbent who unseated Love two years ago.

Meanwhile, a record of at least 25 Black women — all Democrats — won House seats this year, up from the previous high of 22 last cycle. The next Congress will now exceed the 2019 record of 55 Black members, with some races yet to be called.

That milestone also comes as Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's MORE (D-Calif.) will become the nation’s first Black and South Asian female vice president.

“Oftentimes we’re looked at as, or talked about as, the backbone of the Democratic Party. But that hasn’t always translated into the policy wins that we need to advance Black women in this country. And I think that this is a new day,” said Rep.-elect Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), who will fill the seat left by the late civil rights icon Rep. John LewisJohn LewisDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Biden must look to executive action to fulfill vow to Black Americans The purposeful is political: Gen Z bowls over their doubters MORE (D).

Some hail from places that until now had never sent a Black woman to Congress, like Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.), whose district includes Ferguson, Mo., where protests over police brutality erupted in 2014 over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

“What it means being here today is No. 1, I’m somebody from a regular background who’s working class, struggled a lot in my life. Someone that people thought could never be here and I am here,” Bush told reporters during congressional orientation for new lawmakers last week. “And it opens up the door for so many others, whether they be Black little girls, brown little girls, people who are of our disabled community, of our differently-abled community. It opens up the door for everybody to just be like, look, I could be the first.”

Democrats currently have 17 Asian American members across the House and Senate and are expected to add two members to their ranks in January.

Democrats also have 36 Hispanic members across both chambers, compared to just nine for Republicans. Of the six new Hispanic House members taking office for the first time in January, four will be Republicans. Sen.-elect Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) will be the only new Hispanic member of the upper chamber.

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Still, Republicans made significant headway in adding more women to their ranks on Election Day. Their success stems from an expansion of infrastructure for electing women comparable to groups like EMILY’s List on the Democratic side and fielding female GOP candidates in many competitive districts in a year that turned out to be more favorable to their party in congressional races than expected.

Groups like Winning for Women, VIEW PAC and E-PAC, which Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Cuomo reverses on in-person Thanksgiving plans with family Women of both parties must seize the momentum MORE (R-N.Y.) launched after House Republicans lost nearly half of their conference’s women after the 2018 midterm elections, were all involved in supporting female candidates. They wanted to avoid a repeat of 2018 when the GOP freshman class featured just one woman.

“We kind of hit rock bottom where we saw only one newly elected Republican woman to the House. And we really saw a need for a group like ours,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas, communications director for Winning for Women, which combined with its affiliated super PAC spent $5 million to boost female GOP candidates this cycle.

The incoming House GOP women will mark a series of historic firsts in Congress. Rep.-elect Yvette Herrell (N.M.), a member of the Cherokee Nation, will be the first Republican Native American woman; Rep.-elect Stephanie Bice (Okla.) will be the first Iranian American; and California Reps.-elect Michelle Steel and Young Kim will be among the first Korean American women.

“This means that the Republican Party is actually growing, we have a bigger tent,” Steel said. “So I think this is going to be a very encouraging message to not just Asian American communities, but Republicans in the nation too.”

Stefanik said prioritizing female candidates made a difference this cycle, compared with previous years when Republicans were often reluctant to make a point of choosing candidates based on gender or race.

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After the 2020 successes, Stefanik said she is already hearing from more Republican women interested in running for office next cycle in competitive districts.

“I think, historically, the Republicans have shied away from identity politics, and this is not identity politics. This is just proactively making it a priority finding the strongest candidates who happen to be Republican women. So I think that public call to action had very specific tangible results,” Stefanik said.