2018 Elections Could Mean More Women in Iowa Legislature

May 29, 2018

Political analysts say there’s “reason to be optimistic” this year’s elections could lead to a record-breaking number of women serving in the Iowa Legislature.

There have never been more than 35 women among the state’s 150 lawmakers.

“Part of the reason we hit that ceiling is not having enough women run for office,” said Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor at Iowa State University and coordinator at the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics. “This year, we have more women running, so we would expect to see more women winning.”

Winfrey said 99 women are running for state offices in the Iowa primary elections, which is the highest number in state history. She said both political parties are seeing more women run for office, but the increase is greater among Democratic women. 

Winfrey added there will be at least 65, and as many as 96 women on general election ballots in November.

“We also know from previous research that women win 50 to 60 percent of the time, so we would expect probably at least 75 to 80 women to be on the general election ballot, which would be a record-breaking number,” Winfrey said.

That number would include women running for seats in the Iowa Legislature, U.S. Congress, and state executive offices.

Winfrey said women are running in 18 of the 23 open-seat races in the Iowa Legislature, and newcomers have a better chance of winning those seats than unseating incumbent lawmakers.

The national average percentage of female state lawmakers is about 25 percent. Iowa sits below the average at about 23 percent.

Primary election day is June 5.