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Women Running for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2004

Originally Published June 30, 2004
Last Revised September 15, 2004

Women now hold 14% of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, growing from 11% after the 1992 election--a rate of growth that would lead to women holding half of the House seats in 2124. Only 24 states have women representing them in the House--down from 1993, when 27 states had at least one female house member.

This analysis considers where women may gain or lose seats in the 2004 elections, based on our Monopoly Politics analysis. Our assessment is that women will achieve a small increase in House representation with a net gain of three seats.

Here is our review of women U.S. House candidacies in 2004.


Of the 60 women currently serving in the House, 57 are running for reelection in 2004. We have projected that 49 of those 57 will definitely hold their seats. In our projections, 29 of these incumbents will be reelected by a landslide, or a greater than 20% margin; 18 will be reelected by at least a comfortable margin of 10%; and two will be reelected after potentially tighter races. These projections are based on our Monopoly Politics model, which has been nearly perfect in projecting winners in recent elections.

Only one incumbent, South Dakotas Stephanie Herseth--who narrowly won a special election to fill a vacancy this year--is projected as vulnerable, meaning a seat considered most likely to change hands in the 2004 election. No woman is running opposite her.

Seven of the other 56 incumbents running for reelection are facing potentially competitive races and could lose in the 2004 election to a male candidate in the general election. These incumbents are: Connecticut-5s Nancy Johnson (R), Florida-5s Virginia Brown-Waite (R), and New Mexico-1s Heather Wilson (R), who are all in competitive races with district partisanship leaning slightly against them, and Indiana-7s Julia Carson (D), Nevada-1s Shelley Berkley (D), and Oregon-5s Darlene Hooley (D) , who are all in competitive races with district partisanship leaning slightly in their favor. Kentucky-3s Anne Northup is in a competitive race in a district that is split almost exactly evenly on partisanship.

Three female incumbents are not running for reelection in 2004.

  • Georgia-4s Denise Majette (D) is vacating her seat to run in the Senate race, but both candidates running in this safely Democratic district--Catherine Davis (R) and Cynthia McKinney (D)--are women.

  • Missouri-5s Karen McCarthy (D) is leaving an open seat.  Jeanne Peterson has won the Republican primary in that district, but Democrats are very likely to hold the seat, and all Democratic candidates are male.

  • Washington-8s Jennifer Dunn (R) is vacating her seat, which is considered competitive with a district partisanship that is split evenly. No women are running in the general election.

Open Seats

There are several women running for open seats in the 2004 election.  One notable race is taking place in Pennsylvania's 13th district, vacated by Joe Hoeffel.  Melissa Brown won the Republican primary and Allyson Schwartz the Democratic primary for this district, essentially guaranteeing that this seat will be held by a woman in the 109th Congress.

Many of the women running for open seats have good or at least competitive chances.  Four women are favored to win open seats:  North Carolina-5's Virginia Foxx; Florida-20's Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D); Washington-5's Cathy McMorris (R); and Wisconson-4's Gwen Moore (D).  Those expected to face competitive races are Louisiana-3's Charmaine Degruise Caccioppi (D); Louisiana-7's Willie B. Mount (D); Michigan-7's Sharon Renier (D); New York-27's Nancy Naples (R); and New York-29's Samara Barend (D).


Several women also have the opportunity to win seats from incumbents who are projected as either vulnerable or facing competitive races. Texas-17's Arlene Wohlgemuth (R) stands a good chance of winning a House seat over a vulnerable incumbent, Congressman Chet Edwards (D).  Six women may run in competitive races against incumbents this November:  Pennsylvania-6s Lois Murphy (D); Pennsylvania-8s Virginia Schrader (D); North Carolina-13s Virginia Johnson (R); Tennessee-4s Janice Bowling (R); Connecticut-4s Diane Farrell (D); and Minnesota-6s Patty Wetterling (D).


We are projecting a net gain of three seats in the 2004 general election.  We expect to win five open seats, and lose two seats held by women incumbents who are not running for reelection.  Of the 57 incumbents running for reelection, 49 are expected to retain their seats, seven face competitive races, and one is projected as vulnerable.  Women are competitive in five open seat races.  Where women are challenging male incumbents, one has a good chance of winning and six are considered competitive.  The closeness of many races prevents us from making projections in twenty districts, and though there is the potential for great gains by women, over recent years the growth of women's representation in the U.S. House has been slow or non-existent.  This year's moderate projected gain--which will give women 14.5% representation in the House--would not alter this trend.

You can download an Excel spreadsheet with more detailed information about the candidates and their congressional districts.

This analysis was written by Program Associate Jill Dannay.

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