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strong Dem Strong Dem (146)
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strong GOP Strong GOP (183)
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News from the Votemaster

There has been some discussion in the blogosphere of late about why Democratic women did so badly in House races in 2006. Everyone knows that the Democrats picked up 30 seats and took control of the House, but there have been few breakdowns by gender. What result you get depends on which races you look at, of course. Looking at all races mixes up top-drawer races like IL-06, where veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) went down to defeat despite heavy party support with races where a woman was the sacrificial lamb in a race she was expected to lose badly, such as Nancy Boyda (D) in KS-02 --only in this case Boyda won despite getting no funding from the DCCC.

This site tracked 50 Hot House races in 2006. They were chosen because they were expected to be close. The gender of the candidates did not play a role in their selection. Let's take a look at the results and see if Democratic women did badly. The notation (R*) means that the seat was open but the Republicans were the incumbent party. The analysis continues below the table.

CD Incumbent Challenger Winner D. Woman? D. Winner?
AZ-01 Rick Renzi (R) Ellen Simon (D) Renzi Yes No
AZ-05 J.D. Hayworth (R) Harry Mitchell (D) Mitchell    
AZ-08 Randy Graf (R*) Gabrielle Giffords (D) Giffords Yes Yes
CA-11 Richard Pombo (R) Jerry McNerny (D) McNerny    
CO-07 Rick O'Donnell (R*) Ed Perlmutter (D) Perlmutter    
CT-02 Rob Simmons (R) Joe Courtney (D) Courtney    
CT-04 Chris Shays (R) Diane Farrell (D) Shays Yes No
CT-05 Nancy Johnson (R) Chris Murphy (D) Murphy    
FL-13 Vern Buchanan (R*) Christine Jennings (D) Buchanan Yes No
FL-16 Joe Negron (R*) Tim Mahoney (D) Mahoney    
FL-22 Clay Shaw (R) Ron Klein (D) Klein    
GA-12 John Barrow (D) Max Burns (R) Barrow    
IL-06 Peter Roskam (R*) Tammy Duckworth (D) Roskam Yes No
IL-08 Melissa Bean (D) David McSweeney (R) Bean Yes; Yes;
IN-02 Chris Chocola (R) Joe Donnelly (D) Donnelly    
IN-08 John Hostettler (R) Brad Ellsworth (D) Ellsworth    
IN-09 Mike Sodrel (R) Baron Hill (D) Hill    
IA-01 Mike Whalen (R*) Bruce Braley (D) Braley    
IA-02 Jim Leach (R) Dave Loebsack (D) Loebsack    
IA-03 Leonard Boswell (D) Jeff Lamberti (R) Boswell    
KY-03 Anne Northup (R) John Yarmouth (D) Yarmouth    
KY-04 Geoff Davis (R) Ken Lucas (D) Davis    
LA-03 Charlie Melacon (D) Craig Romero (R) Melacon    
MN-01 Gil Gutknecht (R) Tim Walz (D) Walz    
MN-06 Michelle Bachmann (R*) Patty Wetterling (D) Bachmann Yes No
NH-02 Charlie Bass (R) Paul Hodes (D) Hodes    
NJ-07 Mike Ferguson (R) Linda Stender (D) Ferguson Yes No
NM-01 Heather Wilson (R) Patricia Madrid (D) Wilson Yes No
NY-03 Pete King (R) Dave Mejias (D) King    
NY-20 John Sweeney (R) Kirsen Gillibrand (D) Gillibrand Yes Yes
NY-24 Ray Meier (R*) Mike Arcuri (D) Arcuri    
NY-26 Tom Reynolds (R) Jack Davis (D) Reynolds    
NC-08 Robin Hayes (R) Larry Kissell (D) Hayes    
NC-11 Charles Taylor (R) Heath Shuler (D) Shuler    
OH-01 Steve Chabot (R) John Cranley (D) Chabot    
OH-02 Jean Schmidt (R) Vic Wulsin (D) Schmidt Yes No
OH-06 Charlie Wilson (D*) Chuck Blasdel (R) Wilson    
OH-15 Deborah Pryce (R) Mary Jo Kilroy (D) Pryce Yes No
OH-18 Joy Padgett (R*) Zack Space (D) Space    
PA-06 Jim Gerlach (R) Lois Murphy (D) Gerlach Yes No
PA-07 Curt Weldon (R) Joe Sestak (D) Sestak    
PA-08 Mike Fitzpatrick (R) Patrick Murphy (D) Murphy    
PA-10 Don Sherwood (R) Chris Carney (D) Carney    
TX-17 Chet Edwards (D) Van Taylor (R) Edwards    
TX-22 Shelley Gibbs (R*) Nick Lampson (D) Lampson    
TX-23 Henry Bonilla (R) Ciro Rodriguez (D) Rodriguez    
VA-02 Thelma Drake (R) Phil Kellam (D) Drake    
WA-08 Dave Reichert (R) Darcy Burner (D) Reichert Yes No
WV-01 Alan Mollohan (D) Chris Wakim (R) Mollohan    
WI-08 John Gard (R*) Steve Kagan (D) Kagan    

In these 50 races, the Democrats won 34 and Republicans won 16, for a 68% Democratic victory rate. In 36 of these races, the Democrats fielded a male candidate. Of these, 30 won and 6 lost, for an incredible 83% win rate. In the 14 races where the Democrat was a woman, 3 won and 11 lost, for a 21% win rate. You don't need a graduate degree in statistics to see this could not possibly have been due to chance.

Actually, it is even worse than it looks, because all the Democratic women who won had a special edge specific to their race. In AZ-08, there was a bitter Republican primary and the establishment candidate lost. The winner, Randy Graf, was so far to the right that the national Republican party abandoned him and in effect conceded the election to Giffords. In NY-20 , the incumbent Republican, John Sweeney, beat his wife badly enough for her to call the police. Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand made a big deal about this. While Sweeney was able to beat his wife, he wasn't able to beat his challenger. The third woman Democrat who won was Melissa Bean, the incumbent. No Democratic woman running as the challenger was able to defeat an incumbent Republican except where the Republican shot himself in the foot, not even in the three districts where the incumbent Republican was a woman. In contrast, the 22 male Democrats facing sitting Republicans won 16 of their races (73%).

What's going on here? Numerous explanations have been tossed out, including:

  • Women don't have what it takes in the tough races
  • The DCCC didn't fund the women adequately
  • The voters wan macho hero types
  • Emily's List, which funded many of the women, was like a ball-and-chain

It is easy to dispose of the first explanation. In NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter came out of nowhere, with no help at all from the DCCC to take down a sitting two-term Republican and in KS-02 , Nancy Boyda, likewise with no help from the DCCC, defeated five-term Republican and former track star Jim Ryun.

Explanation two may be true, but there are numerous male Democrats who the DCCC also ignored and who won (e.g., Jason Altmire in PA-04 ).

If explanation 3 held water, then Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and double amputee should have won the open seat in IL-06 against a lawyer. She didn't.

The fourth one might have some merit. The DCCC had only one litmus test: Can the candidate win? Ideology didn't matter much, with the DCCC happy to support pro-life Democrats where it looked like they could win. Emily's List would never support a pro-life woman, even if the woman was otherwise acceptable. It is hard to tell how big this factor is. Still there must be a reason for this dismal showing by Democratic women.

This page is the prototype for 2008. The data and map will refer to previous elections until serious polls begin in 2008. The blog will be updated when there is interesting news about the 2008 races.

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-- The Votemaster
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