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Len’s Letters #29 Women Candidates for Whom Donations Could Make A Difference
General Election 2020
A reader asked. Can you put together a list of about 30 women candidates for the House of Representatives? Candidates where the races are close enough that donations could make a difference between winning and losing? Candidates who we could really help win seats?
Could you also make a list, the reader asked, of women who are candidates for the Senate who are in really close races?
I could do that. I told the reader. Here’s my list. You can read the full Political Note about each of these candidates on Lenspoliticalnotes.com.
Here’s how I did it. I focused on candidates in “Toss-up” races and “Lean Republican” races for the House of Representatives. I began with incumbents. Protecting incumbents is a good way to start.
I was less precise for the Senate races.
Before I start, do you have a something to ask me? Don’t hesitate to write.
House Incumbents in Toss-Up Races
- FL 26 Debbie Mucarsel-Powell moved from Ecuador with her mother and siblings to California. She moved to Florida where she did fund raising for non-profits and universities. She was first elected in 2018. Her opponent is Carlos Gimenez, former Mayor of Miami. The districts runs from Miami to the Florida Keys. See Political Note #201
- GA 07 Lucy McBath grew up in Illinois child of a publisher of an African American newspaper publisher. She became a gun safety activist after her son was murdered in a convenience store parking lot. She was first elected in 2018, defeating the incumbent Karen Handel who wants to regain her seat. The district is in suburban Atlanta. She is African American in a predominantly white district. See Political Note #191
- IA 01 Abby Finkenauer is the second youngest member of Congress. Before that, she was a very young member of the Iowa legislature. She was first elected to Congress in 2018 defeating the incumbent Rod Blum. The district is in the northeast quadrant of Iowa and includes Dubuque, Waterloo, and Cedar Rapids. Her challenger is state representative Ashley Hinson. See Political Note #280
- IA 03 Cynthia Axne was a behind the scenes state employee during Democratic administrations. She was let go by a Republican administration. She was first elected to Congress in 2018 defeating the incumbent David Young who wants to regain his seat. The district is in Iowa’s southwest quadrant and includes the state capital Des Moines. See Political Note #204
- NM 02 Xochitl Torres Small is a politically active attorney whose husband is a New Mexico state legislator. She was first elected to this open Republican seat in 2018, defeating Yvette Herrell, who wants to regain her seat. The district is the southern half of the state and includes Las Cruces and Roswell. See Political Note #195
- OK 05 Kendra Horn was 2018’s most surprising Democratic winner and is one of the most vulnerable incumbents. After working for the Space Foundation in DC and in Colorado, she returned to Oklahoma to create organizations that supported women candidates for office in the state. The district includes Oklahoma City and environs. Her challenger is State Senator Stephanie Bice. See Political Note #193
- VA 02 Elaine Luria is a former Navy Commander who grew up in Birmingham, AL and settled in Coastal Virginia. She was first elected in 2018, defeating the incumbent Scott Taylor who wants to regain his seat. The district includes Virginia Beach and Williamsburg. She is Jewish. See Political Note #202
- VA 07 Abigail Spanberger is a former CIA officer who settled in the DC area. She was first elected in 2018 defeating the incumbent David Brat who had previously defeated the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary. The district is west of Washington and continues to west and south of Richmond. Her challenger is Assembly Delegate Nick Freitas. See Political Note #224
House Candidates in Toss-Up Races
- AZ 06 Hiral Tipirneni came to the US, to Cleveland, as a 3 year-old with her immigrant parents from India. She went to school to become a doctor and moved to Arizona, with her husband, both of them to practice medicine. She now works for the consulting firm CSRA as an expert in cancer research. The district covers most of Maricopa County which includes Phoenix and is more of a swing district than the heavily Republican AZ 08 northeast of Phoenix which she ran in and lost in 2018. She is running against incumbent Dave Schweikart who has been weakened by a financial scandal. Political Note #272
- CA 25 Christy Smith was the Democrats choice to replace Kate Hill, elected in 2018, but resigned in 2019 after a sexual scandal. A former teacher, married with children, and a member of the California Assembly, she lost the special election in 2019. The district is in northern Los Angeles County. The incumbent is Mike Garcia who, Democrats hope, will do less well in a general election during the presidential year when there will be a much larger turnout. Political Note #252
- CO 03 Diane Mitsch Bush came to Colorado to ski and to finish her doctoral dissertation. She stayed to teach at universities and to become an environmental activist and a county and state legislator. Now she is 70 years old. The district covers almost the entire western half of Colorado. She lost the election in 2018 to incumbent Scott Tipton who, in 2020, lost his primary to QAnon afficianado Lauren Boebert. Democrats hope (more than hope really) that Diane Mitch Bush will do even better and win against a candidate who is out of the mainstream. Political Note #305
- IA 02 Rita Hart is a former English teacher who has repeatedly been elected as a State Senator to a swing district. Among the qualities which make her popular is her singing at local events. The district is in Iowa’s southeast quadrant and includes Davenport and Iowa City. She is running against another state senator Marionette Miller-Meeks. Political Note #240
- IL 13 Betsy Dirksen Londrigan is a former fund raiser for non-profits and universities who married into a political family (the Londrigans). She came close to defeating the incumbent Rodney Davis in 2018 and is trying again. The district includes the capital, Springfield, and runs from south of Peoria to north of St. Louis. Political Note #238
- IN 05 Christina Hale grew up the child of a single, Hispanic (Cuban) mom. She is now a local figure, a state rep and a former candidate for Lt. Governor known for her hard work. The district includes Indianapolis and some suburbs. The Republican incumbent is retiring. Christina Hale’s opponent is State Senator Victoria Spartz. Political Note #259
- MO 02 Jill Schupp is a state senator with two notable bits of political leadership to her credit. She defeated Jay Ashcroft for her seat. She has been the point person in opposing a referendum to overturn a previous successful referendum which will end gerrymandering in Missouri. The district includes suburbs of St. Louis. She is challenging four term incumbent Ann Wagner. Political Note #276
- NE 02 Kara Eastman is a former non-profit head. Opposed by national Democrats, she defeated a more conservative former Democratic Congressman in the primary in 2018. She came very close to winning the general election that year despite a lack of resources. The district includes Omaha and environs. She is running against the incumbent Don Bacon. Political Note #292
- NJ 02 Amy Kennedy is married to Patrick Kennedy, former RI Congressman and son of Ted Kennedy. If she wins, she will be the only Kennedy in national office because Congressman Joe Kennedy III lost his US Senate primary. She is a former public school 8th grade teacher who has been a good fit as wife and mother and as a part of Patrick Kennedy’s advocacy organization for helping those overcoming alcoholism and drug dependency. She seems to be a good fit as a political candidate, too. This is New Jersey’s southernmost Congressional district. The incumbent, Jeff Van Drew, was elected in 2018 as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican Party because of his opposition to the impeachment of the President. Political Note #309
- NY 02 Jackie Gordon is an immigrant from Jamaica (the West Indies, not Queens). She is a retired teacher, former Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserves, and former member of the Babylon, Long Island City Council. A single mom, she has a son who is at home and a daughter who is a Captain in the US Air Force. The district is on the south shore of Long Island, mostly in Suffolk County which is adjacent to Queens, a borough of New York City. The incumbent, Peter King, a long-time Republican Congressman, is retiring. Her opponent is State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino. Political Noe #266.
- NY 21 Tedra Cobb has been a volunteer fireman, an AIDS counselor, a county legislator, and a sensation. She ran unsuccessfully in the same district in 2018. The district is Northern NY – bordered by Canada in the North and Vermont in the east. She became a sensation in 2019 because the incumbent, Harvard educated Elise Stefanik, was one of Donald Trump’s principal defenders during the impeachment trial. Stefanik received an enormous amount of financial support as a result. Cobb got a lot of financial support in response to Stefanik’s support – not as much, but enough to compete. Political Note #254
- OH 01 Kate Schroder is the daughter of an Ohio doctor and has worked in health care as her career. She was the Zambia Country Director for the Clinton Foundation Health Access Initiative and then returned to DC to take a central office position for the Foundation. Her bout with cancer and her marriage to Cincinnati’s Budget Director were both a part of her return to Ohio. The district is based in Cincinnati. She is running against incumbent Steve Chabot who has been weakened by a financial scandal. Political Note #288
- PA 01 Christina Finello is the Deputy Director of the Buck’s County Division of Housing and Human Services. She won the Democratic primary after the front runner withdrew. This district in the Buck’s County suburb of Philadelphia typically votes Democratic, but not for Congress. She is running against incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick who succeeded his brother. Political Note #297
- TX 21 Wendy Davis is known for her filibuster in the Texas State Senate against an anti-abortion bill. The filibuster served as a springboard for an unsuccessful run for Governor. Since then she has been working on women’s issues. Her district is one of several carved out of Austin, this one extending to San Antonio. She is running against incumbent Chip Roy, a protégé of Ted Cruz. Political Note #267
- TX 24 Candace Valenzuela’s parents retired from the military to El Paso and did not do well. Her mother left with the children and they were homeless for a time. Candace Valenzuela was, nevertheless, a strong student and went to Claremont McKenna College on a full scholarship. She returned to Texas with a husband who was also a Texan living in California. She worked as a teacher and served on a school board. She won the primary run-off with a sophisticated campaign. The district includes suburbs between Fort Worth and Dallas. Her opponent is Beth Van Duyne, controversial anti-Muslim Mayor of Irving. Political Note #310
Challengers in districts considered to be Lean Republican
- AK AL Alyce Galvin has been an education activist working for a non-profit. She was born and raised in Alaska to an unstable family, was awarded a scholarship to a boarding school in California where she stayed to attend college at the UC – San Diego. She returned to Alaska with a husband and became well enough known to run for Congress in 2018. She is running again against 87-year old Don Young who has been in Congress for almost 50 years. Political Note #294
- MI 03 Hillary Scholten is still a Lean Republican even though incumbent Justin Amash, no longer a Republican and now an independent, announced he would not run for reelection. That’s a tribute to the strength of her candidacy in this very Republican district. Deeply religious and local, she is an attorney who specialized in immigration and work with homeless families. The district is west of Lansing, includes Grand Rapids, but is overwhelmingly rural. Her opponent is billionaire army veteran Peter Meijer. Political Note #282
- MT AL Kathleen Williams is trying to be Montana’s second female Member of Congress. Jeanette Rankin was Montana’s and the country’s first. Kathleen Williams is an environmental expert, particularly an expert about water. She is well known for her hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, and canoeing. This is an open seat as the Republican incumbent is running for governor. Kathleen Williams’ opponent is the state auditor Matt Rosendale. Political Note #286
- NY 01 Nancy Goroff is a scientist and an academic at Stony Brook University. BA from Harvard, PhD from UCLA. In addition to teaching and doing research, she has been Acting Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Provost of the University. She is one of those candidates moved to run for office by the 2016 election. The district is the eastern end of Long Island. The Incumbent is Lee Zeldin, Long Island’s very own Donald Trump. He has an avid following and will not be easy to defeat. Political Note #308
- NY 24 Dana Balter teaches public policy at Syracuse University while completing her doctorate there. Aspiring politicians could learn from her. In 2018, before losing to the incumbent in the general election, she wrapped up endorsements from all of the county Democratic parties before the national politicians noticed. They signed up a more conservative opponent, who she defeated soundly, as she defeated primary opponents again in 2020. This Syracuse based district extends west almost to Rochester and south well into New York’s rural upstate. Incumbent John Katko was first elected in 2014. He won his first two elections roughly 60-40. He defeated Dana Balta 53-47. Can she make up that 6% difference? Political Note #284
- NC 08 Patricia Timmons-Goodson is an army kid born in South Carolina whose parents settled in Fayetteville, NC. She still lives there where her husband is an orthodontist. She was a judge in a state that elects judges; ultimately serving as a member of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The district is outside of Charlotte. She is challenging the incumbent Richard Hudson. She is an African American in a predominantly white district. Political Note #315
- TX 03 Lulu Seikaly is a politically active attorney, the daughter of a doctor and a nurse who immigrated to the US from Lebanon. The district includes a portion of Dallas and its northern suburbs – a district which has become increasingly diverse. Lulu Seikaly won the primary run off with the support of the third-place finisher – a man of Vietnamese descent. A graduate of a Catholic high school, Southern Methodist University, and a local law school, she is running against the incumbent, elected in 2018, Van Taylor. He is a young Texas aristocrat (if that is not a contradiction in terms), a descendent of one of the founders of Humble Oil Company. Political Note #318
Senate Candidates Divided Up a Little Differently
A Toss-up where money would make a difference
- IA Theresa Greenfield grew up as a farm girl just north of the Iowa border in Minnesota. Her family had a crop dusting business which she and the other kids in the family worked in. She married an electrician whose death on the job transformed her life from a happy, conventional. She became an urban planner, then, situated in Des Moines, worked for a real estate firm. After the 2007 financial collapse she managed a Des Moines family fund and became a figure in Des Moines.She was enough of a commnity figure to run for Congress in 2018. She exposed her corrupt campaign manager who forged signatures to get her on the ballot and earned herself a public reputation for integrity. She is leading slightly in the polls against one term Senator Joni Ernst. She is trailing financially. Entering July, Theresa Greenfield had $5.6 million. That was not as much as incumbent Joni Ernst’s $9.1 million, but is enough to compete. Political Note #242
A Toss up where big money could make a difference
- KY Amy McGrath wanted to fly fighter jets from when she was a child. They did not change the rules to allow women to fly fighters until she was at the Naval academy. In Afghanistan she become the first women to fly an F-18 in combat. She retired as a Navy Lt. Commander after serving as the Marine Corp liaison to the State Department. Her dad was an English teacher; her mom a doctor. McGrath became a national figure with her campaign video when she ran for Congress in 2018. Even though she lost, she was the favorite to run against Mitch McConnell for the Senate. She has been able to compete financially. She began July with $16.1 million to spend. He began July with $16.5 million. Political Note #255
A Lean/Likely Republican where money could make a difference. It would help keep the Democratic candidate ahead financially after the Republicans’ competitive primary
- KS Barbara Bollier began life as a Republican. Like many moderate Republicans, in the face of Governor and former Senator Sam Brownback’s enormous tax cuts, she began to move away from her party. When the promised huge improvement in the economy didn’t happen and tax receipts declined, these moderates were further alienated by the necessary cuts in services. She supported the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2018, changed parties in December 2018, and announced her run for the Senate in October, 2019. She is facing belligerent Congressman Roger Marshall for this open Republican seat. She has $4.1 million in her pocket while he has about one million dollars. Political Note #262
A Lean/Likely Republican where money could create a serious candidacy
- OK Abby Broyles is 30 years old. She is running against Jim Inhofe who has been in the Senate for 26 years, in politics for 54 years, and is 85 years old. She is a good fit for Oklahoma. She’s religious and she’s smart – completing her BA in 2 ½ years at a Baptist college in California. She worked as a television journalist, even while an undergraduate. More than a pretty face in front of the camera, she became an investigative reporter and documented legislative improprieties and illegalities. While working as a television anchor and reporter, she continued going to school, completing a law degree at a local law school. Meanwhile, Jim Inhofe has shown no capacity to change with the times. That can catch up to a candidate, especially if he is complacent. His fund raising is relatively modest. He has $2.2 million. Of course, hers is much less – less than $200,000. Political Note #311
A Lean/Likely Republican candidacy where big money could give a candidate a chance to win
- TX MJ Hegar. MJ Hegar is another military pilot. Her machine was a helicopter. Her record of bravery is on the wall of the University of Texas Department of Air Force Science Honor Wall. Can she parlay her military experience into election to the Senate? Texas may be ripe for it. Beto O’Rourke came close to victory in his 2018 Senate run. Two Republican Congressional seats were flipped in 2018. Five more could be flipped in 2020. Can the Senate seat be flipped? MJ Hegar is doing the right things, even softening her image. But money is an issue. The incumbent John Cornyn has $14.5 million on hand. MJ Hegar has slightly less than one million dollars. Texas is a big and expensive state. Political Note #291
Other candidates I think worth mentioning
Marquita Bradshaw tried a new tack in Tennessee. It worked in the primary. Spend less than $10,000, but work very hard. An African American advocate for environmental justice, she defeated James Mackler, who had a respectable war chest, but came in third. Could she run successfully against a former hedge fund guy, Bill Hagerty who has $2.4 million listed available and plenty more in his personal back pocket? Political Note #316
Paulette Jordan in Idaho seems more than interesting. She is a Native American and a 6’0” former basketball standout. She is running against one of the wealthiest Members of Congress who has $2.4 million available for this small population state while she has $80,000 or so. Political Note is not yet written
Paula Jean Swearingen in an environmental activist, an activist on other issues, too. Like the other candidates “worth mentioning,” her candidacy is a kind of experiment. Instead of putting up a moderate Democrat who can be portrayed as more reasonable than the radical Republican opponent, she and the others are more radical critics of the status quo. She is running against incumbent Shirly Moore Capito who has not made much of an impact on the Senate. Political Note #307
Merav Ben-David is a professor of ecology and zoology at the University of Wyoming. BS, MS Tel Aviv University, PhD University of Alaska Fairbanks, she studied the impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on sea otters. Born in Rehovot, Israel, she became a US citizen in 2009. This is an open seat because of the retirement of Republican Senator Mike Enzi. Her opponent is ex Representative Cynthia Lummis Wiederspahn.