2014 — Year of the Woman? Women Compete in Critical Midterm Senate Races

Sen. Mary Landrieu (Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (Photo: Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images)

The 2014 battle for the Senate stars a number of female candidates in key races, and it is quite possible that the Senate will be the better off because of it.

This year, women are competing in some of the nation’s most critical electoral matchups. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina are two of the most endangered Democrats in the Senate. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire just saw her re-election bid transformed into a high-profile affair with the entry of former senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., into the race.

Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan secretary of State, is running neck and neck with Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for the right to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. If she wins, it would be a huge pickup for Republicans. Democrats have dispatched women to try to capture two red Senate seats: Michelle Nunn is the Democratic choice for an open Senate seat in Georgia, and Alison Lundergran Grimes is challenging Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.

And in West Virginia, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller has decided to retire, creating a rare woman-vs.-woman Senate campaign, in which Republican Rep. Shelly Moore Capito is considered a heavy favorite against Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant.

It has been well documented that American politics has become more and more polarized and partisan. But many of the contests listed above are races for a centrist electorate, and the female candidates are mostly running from the middle, not the fringes.

This pattern suggests that some of these women may strengthen a pragmatic woman-centered bloc that is emerging as a key force in passing major legislation in the Senate. The government shutdown last year featured men in leading roles: House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama unable to satisfy or subdue the vocal minority led by Sen. Ted Cruz.

In the end, a deal was brokered largely by Senate women, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrats Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington.

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SOURCE: Paul Singer
USA TODAY

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