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The coronavirus continues to plague the United States while the economy struggles to recover from the pandemic-induced recession. Protests against systemic racism rocked cities across the country during the summer. And in the middle of it all, voters have cast their ballots in the 2020 general election.
A number of historic races have happened across the country — many featuring more women, especially women of color, than ever before.
Sen. Kamala Harris, in particular, has already made history by being the first Black and South Asian woman to be the vice presidential candidate for a major-party ticket.
Women, who make up more than half of the electorate, have turned out in huge numbers. In several key battleground states, women accounted for more than half of early voters.
As the election results continue to come into focus, The 19th is monitoring 19 key races and issues in 2020.
1. The top of the ticket
President Donald Trump is running against former Vice President Joe Biden for the highest office in the land, but for some, Biden’s vice presidential selection could also be a motivating factor to turn out and vote.
Before Harris joined Biden as his running mate in August, she ran against him. During the Democratic primaries, her race and gender provoked questions of electability that eventually led her to drop out in December 2019.
Then last spring, Biden said he would name a woman as his running mate. As the day drew closer, “calls for a woman of color — and a Black woman specifically — grew louder,” wrote The 19th’s Errin Haines. Biden eventually named Harris, who told The 19th in her first interview after the announcement, “Joe Biden had the audacity to choose a Black woman to be his running mate. How incredible is that? And what a statement that is about Joe Biden.”
Biden is leading with women voters, but experts say Harris’ dual identities as a Black and Indian-American woman could energize voters from those backgrounds. Given that Black women vote at higher rates than nearly any other demographic and Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial ethnic group in the electorate, this enthusiasm could help Democrats with the top of the ticket.
2. Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona
Martha McSally, a Republican, is running in a special election in Arizona against Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords.
In 2018, McSally ran against Kyrsten Sinema for an open Senate seat and lost. After Sen. John McCain died in 2018, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to fill the vacancy in 2019.
Her race against Kelly is increasingly close, and both candidates have raised millions during the third quarter. McSally, who is losing with women in some polls by double digits, has started to see her race as part of an existential threat to the Republican majority in the Senate, calling Arizona “ground zero for the Senate.”
3. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia
After Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson retired at the start of this year, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to fill his seat. She is the first Republican woman to represent Georgia in the Senate and the first female senator from the state in more than 100 years.
In this year’s special election, Loeffler is facing 18 other candidates, including Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. This is an all-party race with no primary. If no candidate receives a majority of votes in November, the top two finishers will proceed to a runoff election in January 2021.
Final results: Loeffler, Warnock head to runoff
4. Sen. Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield in Iowa
Incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa is running for reelection after one term. In 2014, she became the first woman elected to represent Iowa in federal office. In the 2020 race, she is trailing behind Democrat Theresa Greenfield in opinion polls.
This is the most expensive Senate race in Iowa history, with Greenfield raising more money in the last three months than any Iowan running for the U.S. Senate has in an entire election cycle.
Ernst and Greenfield are trying to balance national interest in the race, and its potential impact on Senate control, with the issues on Iowans’ minds, such as agriculture and wind energy.
Final results: Ernst wins reelection
5. Barbara Bollier’s Kansas Senate race
In July 2018, Dr. Barbara Bollier was a Republican representing a district in the Kansas City suburbs as a Kansas state senator. She clashed with members of the Republican party over, among other things, her support of Tom Niermann, who was competing in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder in a U.S. House district.
Bollier switched to the Democratic Party, and is now running for U.S. Senate. She would be the first Democrat elected to represent Kansas in the Senate since 1932.
She and her Republican opponent, Roger Marshall, are in a relatively tight race.
Final results: Bollier loses to Marshall
6. Amy McGrath’s Kentucky Senate race
Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat aviator, is running to unseat Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell assumed his role in the Senate in 1985, and has had as low as a single-point lead on McGrath in public opinion polls. McGrath, who ran for Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District in 2018 and lost to Republican incumbent Andy Barr, has raised more than $80 million in her race against McConnell, who has raised more than $50 million.
Polls have McConnell leading McGrath by as much as 10 points, and the Cook Political Report rates the race as “likely Republican.”
Final results: McConnell keeps his Senate seat
7. Sen. Susan Collins and Sara Gideon in Maine
Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, is running to keep her seat for a fifth term. Collins is known as a moderate Republican and a critical swing vote in the Senate.
Until 2018, she was expected to coast to reelection in 2020 as she did in 2002, 2008 and 2014. But when Collins voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, her approval ratings went down, and Democrats saw an opportunity to flip a seat in the Senate.
Sara Gideon, Maine’s current speaker of the House, is running against Collins as a Democratic moderate. Both Gideon and Collins say they want to put partisanship aside and work to get things done for the people of Maine.
8. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi
Mississippi’s only woman in Congress, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, is running against Democrat Mike Espy. The polls favor Hyde-Smith to win.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to her seat by then-Gov. Phil Bryant in March 2018, after longtime Sen. Thad Cochran retired from the Senate due to health concerns. Her current challenger, Mike Espy, a former Congressional representative from Mississippi, has long been a presence in state and federal politics: he was the first Black person to represent the state in Congress, and later served as secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton.
Mississippi is the only state to have in-person voting on Election Day as the only option for all voters (absentee ballots are allowed in some special and extenuating circumstances). Some advocates and experts have concerns about how voter access could lead to voter suppression in the state, which, they say, would affect turnout for Espy.
Final results: Hyde-Smith wins reelection
9. MJ Hegar’s Texas Senate race
Democrat MJ Hegar is running for a seat that’s been held by Republicans for nearly six decades. If Hegar wins, she would become only the second woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.
John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, is campaigning for his fourth term in office. He’s consistently held a lead over Hegar, but polls show it has narrowed to single-digits in the final months leading up to Election Day. Despite a giant third-quarter fundraising push for Hegar, the Cook Political Report forecasts the race as leaning Republican.
Hegar, a combat veteran, ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. She lost to incumbent John Carter by less than 3 percentage points, the closest Carter has ever come to losing in nine congressional elections.
Final results: Cornyn defeats Hegar
10. Nicole Galloway’s gubernatorial run in Missouri
Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, is vying to be Missouri’s first female governor. For the past two years, she has been the only Democrat to hold statewide office in Missouri, serving as auditor since 2015.
Galloway is running against Republican Mike Parson, who has seen his public approval rating drop amid the coronavirus pandemic from 60 percent in April to 39 percent in late August. Still, the race is not rated as a toss-up; it “leans” Republican.
11. A historic run for the House
Dr. Hiral Tipirneni
Tipirneni is an emergency room doctor focusing her campaign on health care. This is Tipirneni’s second bid for Congress; she lost a special election in 2018. She is now facing Republican Rep. David Schweikert, who has held this office since 2013, in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District. The race has been rated a toss-up by Inside Elections. Live updates on this race.
Karen Handel and Rep. Lucy McBath
McBath is the first person of color to represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. McBath, a Democrat who lost her son to gun violence in 2012, ran for Congress to fight for stricter gun laws. She is running against Handel, a Republican, who McBath defeated in 2018 by just one percentage point. The race is characterized as “leaning Democratic” by Inside Elections.
Christina Hale and Victoria Spartz
Hale and Spartz are vying to represent Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who is not running for reelection. Spartz, a Republican and current state senator, is competing against Hale, a Democrat, in the historically Republican district that Inside Elections categorized as a toss-up. Live updates on this race.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer and Ashley Hinson
Finkenauer is the Democratic incumbent in the race to represent Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. She and her opponent, Hinson, a Republican, have both served as state representatives for two terms. The race is ranked as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.
Stephanie Bice and Rep. Kendra Horn
Horn is running for reelection as representative of Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District against Bice, a Republican who has been endorsed by Trump. The president won the district in 2016, but Horn, a Democrat, was elected in 2018. The 5th is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.
Schroder is challenging Republican incumbent Steve Chabot to represent Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. The district leans Republican, but is trending moderate, and the race has been rated a toss-up. Schroder is a member of the Cincinnati board of health and has focused on expanding health care and keeping Affordable Care Act protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Jill Schupp and Rep. Ann Wagner
Wagner is seeking her fifth term as a Republican representative of Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District. She is running against Democrat Jill Schupp. Missouri’s 2nd district has been represented by a Republican for the past 28 years, but the race has been rated as a toss-up. Democrats see an opening because Wagner defeated Cort VanOstran, an underfunded and little-known Democrat, by just 4 percentage points in 2018.
Yvette Herrell and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small
Torres Small was elected to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District in 2018, and is running for reelection in 2020. She represents the largest non-at-large district in the country. Small is running against Republican Yvette Herrell and independent Steve Jones in this election. Before 2018, this district was last represented by a Democrat in 2011.
Final results: Torres Small loses reelection bid
Timmons-Goodson became the first Black woman to sit on North Carolina’s Supreme Court in 2006, and is now running to represent the state’s 8th District. She is challenging incumbent Republican Richard Hudson. The race leans Republican, a change from earlier in the year when the Cook Political Report had classified the race as “likely Republican.”
Davis is challenging Republican incumbent Chip Roy to represent Texas’ 21st Congressional District. Davis, a former state senator, lost the gubernatorial race to Greg Abbott in 2014 by roughly 20 points. Roy leads Davis by single digits.
Final results: Roy defeats Davis
Valenzuela running to represent Texas’ 24th Congressional District. Once a college counselor, Valenzuela was politically unknown until she announced her candidacy in 2019. If she wins, she would be the first Afro-Latina in Congress. Democrats have identified this as a likely district to flip to Democratic control, making it a high-profile race. Live updates on this race.
12. The Latina electorate
Latina voters have historically had low voter turnout, going to the polls at 14 to 20 percent lower rates than non-Latinx Black or White women. This year, Latinas are experiencing a political awakening.
Nearly half of all Latina workers are employed in hospitality, retail and “other services,” the three fields hit hardest by job losses this year. In April, the Latina unemployment rate hit 20.2 percent, and it’s still in double digits at 11 percent.
Issues around job loss or pay cuts made over 60 percent of the Latinx population more likely to vote in 2020, according to a poll by UnidosUS. Latinas are less likely than Latinos to support Trump.
13. Black women
Many issues are on the ballot for Black women in this election, including the dual pandemics of the coronavirus and systemic racism.
“Sometimes we vote because we’re inspired and sometimes we vote because we’re mad as hell,” said Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown, whose organization is on a multi-city bus tour working on registration and turnout. “Women are outraged.”
Black women have also been disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the coronavirus, losing more than 1.4 million jobs and working at essential jobs at nearly double the rate of their representation in the workforce.
14. White suburban women
White suburban women were a key voting bloc for Trump in 2016; between 47 percent to 52 percent of White women cast ballots for Trump. In 2020, however, polling predicts Biden is leading Trump among women by 9 to 29 points, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Trump is appealing to suburban women by emphasizing “law and order” and claiming he is keeping low-income housing out of the suburbs and protecting the safety of their neighborhoods. During several rallies in October, the president made overtures to suburban women, telling one crowd, “So can I ask you to do me a favor, suburban women? Will you please like me? Please. Please. I saved your damn neighborhood, OK?”
15. The economy
The economy is the top issue for voters in 2020, especially among Trump supporters, who prioritize the economy and crime.
The current economic landscape has disproportionately impacted women, spurring “America’s first female recession” early in the pandemic, a downturn that was punctuated by 865,000 women leaving the workforce in September. This figure reflects how the increased responsibilities of child care for some working mothers is prompting them to choose between their career and family.
Early in the pandemic, Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law. These gave Americans additional unemployment payments and benefits and added paid time off for parents affected by increased child care responsibilities brought on by the coronavirus. However, recent talks about another round of stimulus has halted.
Moody’s Analytics found that a Biden presidency would likely see an economic rebound in the second half of 2022, while a Trump presidency would not see an economic rebound until the first half of 2024.
The election will not just affect the economy at the federal level. In Florida, for example, Amendment 2 is on the ballot and would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. If Amendment 2 passes, women stand to benefit the most, as it could help narrow the gender pay gap in the state.
16. Health care
While the top issues for Trump supporters are the economy and crime, Biden supporters prioritize health care.
Earlier this fall, experts predicted that reproductive health would be a top priority for Trump if he won a second term, an issue he previewed on September 3, when he promised to appoint federal judges who oppose abortion and defund health care providers that provide abortions.
After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the high court. Barrett was confirmed on October 26, a move that experts say “increases the odds that the court will either strike down Roe v. Wade or roll back its protections.”
Beyond reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act, affordable prescription drugs, mental health care and more are at stake in the election.
17. The pandemic
More than 200,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus over the past seven months. Trump’s diagnosis in early October at a “super-spreader” event at the White House came after he referred to the virus as a “hoax” and ignored the precautions recommended by health officials.
Women voters have expressed anger with the way the president has handled the coronavirus. While women navigate a constantly changing work force and different child care options, the president has failed to get the virus under control.
The pandemic has also placed extra stress on working mothers, particularly those in low-wage jobs that don’t offer paid sick leave for them to tend to other responsibilities. Women in heterosexual relationships do about 40 percent more of the child care than their male partners.
18. LGBTQ+ rights
LGBTQ+ issues have largely been ignored throughout the course of the election, including in the two presidential debates and the vice presidential debate — but this election is important for the community, which may have a lot to lose if Trump wins a second term.
In 2016, Trump claimed to be supportive of LGBTQ+ people, but the past four years have painted a different picture. The Trump administration has barred trans people from serving in the military and argued that the LGBTQ+ community should not be protected from employment discrimination, among other things.
To complicate Trump’s position even further, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito recently suggested that marriage equality should be overturned and decided by state legislatures.
Biden’s campaign has promised to make LGBTQ+ rights a priority, and advocates have called the Biden-Harris ticket the “most pro-equality ticket in history.”
In addition, LGBTQ+ candidates are making history. At least 16 trans candidates are running for statehouse seats in 2020. There are currently four trans candidates serving in state legislatures, and advocates are hoping to at least double that number this year. Trans candidates are also running for Congress, city council and other local races.
19. Race and racism
In May 2020, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. This came just weeks after Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her apartment in Louisville, an incident that failed to initially make headlines because news at the time was dominated by coverage of the coronavirus.
After the death of Floyd, a wave of #BlackLivesMatter protests swept across the globe, galvanizing interest in Taylor’s case. The hashtag #SayHerName became a rallying cry throughout the summer of social unrest.
The protests against police violence and in support of Black Lives Matter brought to light other issues affecting Black women, specifically. “Black women have been at a disadvantage in every conceivable arena — hiring, education, health care, banking — victims of the incomplete crawl toward change,” writes The 19th’s economy reporter, Chabeli Carrazana. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many of those problems, resulting in a set of dual pandemics. “Evidence shows Black Americans are more likely to fall sick from or die from Covid-19,” writes The 19th. “Concurrently, they are also more likely to die from police brutality.”
Trump has shown disdain for the Black Lives Matter movement, but Biden’s record has also been attacked by progressives. His role in the 1994 crime bill has been blamed for contributing to mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects Black men.