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Number of Republican women holding state and federal elective offices in Utah unlikely to change following the 2020 elections

Key Points

  • All 12 Republican women running for their party’s nomination for open seats in congressional, gubernatorial and legislative races were defeated by men during the Republican convention and primary elections.
  • The nine Republican women who challenged male incumbents for their party’s nomination in state legislative and U.S. Congressional races all lost and the only woman running for governor also lost.
  • The five Republican women who won their party’s nominations are in strongly Democrat districts where they have slim to no chance of winning.
  • The 2021 legislature will see only one Republican woman in the 29 person senate and likely only eight in the 75 seat Republican controlled House. This is one less in the Senate and no change in the House. A Republican woman is on track to become Lt. Governor. The Governorship, Attorney General, State Auditor, State Treasurer and all four Congressional seats will continue to be held by men.
  • A lack of viable female candidates makes it harder for the Utah Republican Party to attract younger voters and may encourage write-in candidates.

According to Better Days Utah, “The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of Utah women being the first in the nation to vote under an equal suffrage law. It also marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, extending women’s voting rights throughout the United States.” In addition, August 2020 has been designated as National Women’s Suffrage Month.

One of the goals of the taxpayer supported Better Days Utah is to “Strengthen Utah’s …political…communities by supporting and encouraging women’s aspirations;” however, a review of Republican candidates for state and federal offices shows that, when given the choice, Republican delegates and primary voters disproportionately choose men to be their party’s nominees.

Following the Republican conventions and the Republican primary elections, 23 women vying for open seats or challenging incumbents had been eliminated (79%) and five had gained a spot on the November ballot. One woman had been selected to fill a legislative vacancy and will be the party’s incumbent candidate in the November election. All five of the non-incumbent Republican women moving on to the general election are running in Democratic leaning districts and have a slim to no chance of being elected to office.

Republican women who challenged Republican male incumbents for offices at all levels were 0 for 9—all of the male incumbents won (Harper, Bramble, Weiler, Ipson, Miles, Barlow, Christofferson, Thurston, Stewart). In open seats in safe or competitive districts, Republican women were 0 for 12. The only races that Republican women prevailed in were in Districts already held by Democrats.

Based on the above, Republican voters will only be able to vote for five non-incumbent Republican women. All five of these women (McDonough, Hunter, Quintana, Bagley, Christensen) are running in safe Democrat districts where they will almost certainly lose and four of the five were unopposed in their bids to be the party’s nominee.

When the final votes are counted in November, there will only be one Republican woman in the 2021 state senate (4% of the current 23 Republican Senators) which is one less than in 2020—Deidre Henderson gave up her seat to run for Lt. Governor and is being replaced by Mike McKell.

In the 2021 State House of Representatives, the number of Republican women will likely remain unchanged. Earlier, Kera Birkeland was selected to replace Logan Wilde who resigned from the legislature and now, as the incumbent, she should retain that seat. However, Kim Coleman did not run for her seat in the Utah House of Representatives and a man will take that seat. Therefore, unless one or more of the five Republican women running in Democrat leaning districts wins, the number of Republican women in the House will remain unchanged at eight out of a total of 59 (14%) or so Republican Representatives in 2021.

The Republican’s gubernatorial nominee is a man. His Lieutenant Governor selection is a woman. There will be no Republican women running for the United States House of Representatives and there are no Republican women in the Attorney General, State Auditor, or State Treasurer races.

So, unless a number of Republican women who were defeated in close convention or primary races should decide to run as write-in candidates, the lack of Republican women on the 2020 ballots may make it more difficult for the Republican Party to attract younger voters. However, it will not significantly impact the Party’s continuing domination of Utah politics during this election cycle.

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Ronald Mortensen

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