WASHINGTON — Women will occupy a record number of 20 Senate seats in January after historic victories Tuesday.
Women won in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Nebraska, North Dakota and Nevada. Currently, 17 women — the most yet — serve in the chamber, and two of them, Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, are retiring.
Before midnight Tuesday, it was clear that the Senate would retain a record number of women, and it would be a bipartisan effort.
First, Nebraska state Sen., Deb Fischer, R, was declared the winner over former two-term U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, D, for an open seat. Minutes later, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, whose attacks on Wall Street fueled her political rise in the Democratic Party, won her race against Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
The record was set less than an hour later, when U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., claimed victory over Tommy Thompson, the state's longest-serving governor and secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. Baldwin is the first woman to represent her state in the Senate, and is the first openly gay woman in the chamber.
This election year's wins include the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. There, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, defeated former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.
In North Dakota, former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp defeated Rep. Rick Berg in a race decided on Tuesday.
At Emily's List, a political action committee geared toward elected pro-choice, Democratic women, officials heralded results that returned to the chamber all Democratic incumbent female senators up for re-election this year. They include Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
"Women in America want leaders with the right priorities, who will stand up for women and families — not roll the clock back on our rights and freedoms," Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily's List, said in an emailed statement.
In New Hampshire, female incumbent Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R, and Jeanne Shaheen, D, will be part of another first. New Hampshire in January becomes the only state to have women in the governor's mansion, in both Senate seats, and in all House seats.