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Three Native American women are headed to Congress after a record number ran for congressional office.

At least 18 Native American women ran for congressional office in 2020, the highest number in any single election cycle. For comparison, only two Native American women ran for office in 2016, one in 2012 and two in 2008. 

Nine were Democrats and nine were Republicans, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). Some of these women were defeated during the primaries, but three won their House races. 

Democrats Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member in New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, a Ho-Chunk Nation member in Kansas, were both elected to a second term in the House. Republican Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, beat Xochitl Torres Small, the Democratic incumbent, for her congressional seat in New Mexico. 

There has never been a Native American woman in the U.S. Senate, though Democrat Paulette Jordan was the first to run in Idaho this year. She lost to Republican incumbent Jim Risch, according to Decision Desk HQ

Historically, Native American women — who represent about 1.1 percent of the U.S. population — have been underrepresented as candidates. As of 2020, this group comprised 0.7 percent of all House candidates, with nearly equal representation among Republicans and Democrats, according to CAWP. 

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The first Native American woman to be elected to a state legislature seat was Cora Belle Reynolds Anderson in 1924. In 1980, LaDonna Harris was likely the first Native American woman nominee for U.S. vice president. Nearly three decades later, Denise Juneau was elected as Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction — the first Native American woman elected to a statewide executive office. 

It wasn’t until 2018 that Davids of Kansas and Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress; Jordan, of Idaho, was the first nominee for governor in the United States.