5 Female Democrats Running for Congress in the 2020 Election

From new candidates to incumbents, these women promise to effect much-needed change — if given the chance

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay.

Journalist Andrea González-Ramírez, a GEN senior writer, provides a terrific rundown of nine women to watch in the 2020 election in “A Historic Number of Women Are Running For Congress. Again.” In that article, González-Ramírez notes that a “record 490 women have filed as candidates for House seats in the 2020 election,” nearly 50 women are running for seats in the U.S. Senate, and those numbers could increase further as filing deadlines for candidates approach.

If you’re among those eager to see more Democrats in Congress, continue reading for details on five women mentioned in the González-Ramírez piece:
Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico
Gina Ortiz Jones of Texas
Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa
Amy McGrath of Kentucky
Sara Gideon of Maine

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico

Oil and gas is the dominant industry in the traditionally conservative southern district of New Mexico that Rep. Xochitl Torres Small has represented since 2018. With multiple Republican hopefuls vying for the chance to unseat her later this year, Torres Small does not hesitate to serve as an outspoken advocate for her constituents. According to nonprofit news organization New Mexico Political Report, the 35-year-old granddaughter of Mexican immigrants immediately defended those who work in the oil and gas industry in her state when other politicians celebrated drastic drops in oil and gas futures earlier this year. In an April statement, Torres Small defended the “tens of thousands of oil and gas workers who have worked hard every day to power our state and now stand to lose their livelihoods.” “No person should take joy in their suffering,” she wrote.

According to her website, Torres Small is an attorney who provides free legal counsel as a volunteer at a homeless shelter. She has worked as a field representative for Senator Tom Udall with a focus on increasing “cell phone service, broadband, and other communication lines in rural New Mexico.” She has also “worked with teachers, college instructors, and business leaders to create better job opportunities for local graduates” and “helped bring farmers, conservationists, and communities together to protect New Mexico’s water.”

A former judicial law clerk for a federal judge, Torres Small has worked “on one of the heaviest criminal dockets in the country” and seen “firsthand the personal costs and financial burden our nation bears because of its broken immigration system.” According to her website, her top concerns include economic development, education, healthcare, immigration, and veterans’ issues.

Gina Ortiz Jones of Texas

When the current representative in her south Texas district announced he was going to retire, 39-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and former security adviser on trade Gina Ortiz Jones threw her hat into the ring — again. Since losing her bid to gain the seat in a tight race in 2018, she’s held onto that goal and continued to share her compelling life story. The daughter of a Filipino immigrant who was a single mother, Ortiz Jones grew up poor. She is also gay. According to her website, she graduated from Boston University with dual bachelor’s degrees in economics and East Asian Studies before serving with the Air Force as an intelligence officer in Iraq.

Ortiz Jones’s “career in national security, intelligence, and defense” has included serving as an advisor on operations in Latin America and Africa, including “military operations that supported South Sudan’s independence referendum.” As a civil servant, she has focused on “the intersection of economic and national security issues,” reviewing “foreign investments to ensure they did not pose national security risks” as Director for Investment at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. She is involved with the Council on Foreign Relations think tank and holds a graduate degree from the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.

Top issues for Ortiz Jones include jobs and the economy, national security, healthcare, education, civil rights, veterans, the elderly, and immigration. According to a 2018 Dallas News article, she “wants to provide a path for citizenship to immigrants who came to the country illegally as children. She also wants to invest in the State Department to help countries in Central and South America so that immigrants don’t come running for our border.” Ortiz Jones supports “smart, responsible immigration policy reform that protects the security of Americans while also creating an inclusive and welcoming community for those who come to this country for a better life.”

Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa

Known as the youngest woman to flip a seat in a congressional race and one of the youngest women in Congress, 31-year-old Rep. Abby Finkenauer is now defending the seat she’s held since 2018. As González-Ramírez notes in her article, the former Iowa legislator will likely run against “Ashley Hinson, a former TV news anchor who’s served in the [Iowa] State House since 2016 [and] is expected to win the Republican nomination in the state’s June primary.”

Finkenauer has become an advocate for women suffering from endometriosis, a painful condition that involves tissue usually contained within the uterus growing outside the uterus. According to Finkenauer, who has suffered from endometriosis for three years, the condition is not easily treated and is not discussed widely, and related research is not funded sufficiently by the federal government. In an exclusive USA Today story in March, Finkenauer discussed the condition, which affects “1 in 10 women,” impacting “nearly 200 million women worldwide,” and often leads to hysterectomies.

The youngest of four siblings in a working-class family, Finkenauer was a first-generation college student when she attended Drake University. She was elected to the Iowa State House of Representatives at the age of 25 and served two terms before heading to Congress. Finkenauer’s website lists her top issues, in addition to women’s healthcare, as education, student debt, jobs and the economy, healthcare, immigration, and the environment as well as concerns related to the elderly, veterans, and working-class families.

Amy McGrath of Kentucky

A former fighter pilot for the U.S. Marines, 44-year-old Amy McGrath is running against one of the most well-known and powerful politicians in the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But she’s been in tough battles before. According to her website, the Kentucky native and mother of three “completed two combat deployments and flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.” She also “became the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18,” “completed a second operational tour deploying to Japan and flying all around the Pacific,” and “completed her third combat deployment in Helmand Province Afghanistan.” She’s spent the past decade serving as a “Congressional Fellow advising a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on defense and foreign policy” and serving “in the Pentagon as [the] Marine Corps’ liaison to the State Department and other federal agencies.”

McGrath holds a master’s degree in global security from Johns Hopkins University, is a graduate of the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction’s Program for Emerging Leaders at the National Defense University, and has served “as a senior instructor in the Political Science Department at the US Naval Academy.”

In a recent interview published in a Kentucky newspaper, McGrath said, “My husband’s a lifelong Republican. I’m a Democrat. That’s America.” Her top issues include mental health concerns among veterans as well as healthcare, jobs, and education. Her campaign’s Commonwealth, Common Health initiative has raised thousands of dollars for Kentucky food banks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Gideon of Maine

As the Democratic candidate in the race to unseat Republican Senator Susan Collins — yet another high-profile politician—Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon, a 48-year-old mother of three, touts her experience serving under governors from both major parties. A 2019 CNN profile of Gideon noted that the state representative has had to work across the aisle on various initiatives. That same piece also included criticism of Gideon with regard to an ethics violation charge related to campaign contributions as well as her current stance that, unlike Collins, she will not accept any contributions from political action committees. According to one critic, Gideon “built her entire political career accepting corporate money through her leadership PAC.”

Gideon, who holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from George Washington University, includes among her top priorities an issue that has dramatically impacted citizens of Maine and other New England states: the opioid epidemic. According to her website, Gideon has helped pass legislation “to expand addiction treatment and prevention programs and to give law enforcement the tools they need to fight the epidemic” — including the overdose-reversing drug naloxone. On the federal level, Gideon “supports a comprehensive approach” to the opioid crisis that includes “expanding access to affordable addiction treatment; creating bridge programs to ensure that people have access to treatment at the moment they’re ready; funding education and prevention efforts as well as public health research; and holding big pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the crisis.”

Other top priorities for Gideon include education, the environment, healthcare, taxes, jobs and the economy, and issues facing the elderly and veterans.

In a November 2019 Forbes article — “Was It A Blip? A Year After The Historic Midterms, Is The Surge Of Women Running For Office Over?” — director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University said she believes what happened in 2018 “wasn’t a blip but represents a new movement of women seeking elected office.” She added, however, that the current “story of women running right now is on the Republican side.” If Democrats want to see significant change happen in Washington this fall, they might want to step up to support Democrats running for office— especially women candidates such as those listed above — now.

This post was updated August 8, 2020, to reflect developments since primaries were held. If you liked this, you might also like:

I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction when I’m not working as a copy editor. Author of the novel One Sister’s Song.

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Bylines in Publishers Weekly, the Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, others. One Sister’s Song (novel). Not Nearly Everything You Need to Know About Writing (ebook).

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