Republican Women in the US Senate

Five women currently represent conservatives in the Senate

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Five women represent Republicans as senators in the 115th Congress, running from 2017 through 2019. The number is one fewer than for the previous Congress as New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte lost re-election by only about 1,000 votes.

Alaska: Lisa Murkowski

  • First Elected: 2004 (Appointed in 2002 to fill a vacancy)
  • Next Election: 2022

Lisa Murkowski is a moderate Republican from Alaska with a roller-coaster history. In 2002, she was appointed to the seat by her father, Frank Murkowski, who vacated it after being elected Governor. This move was viewed unfavorably by the public and she barely won her first full term in 2004. She won the seat by just 3 points on the same day George W. Bush won the state by more than 25 points. After Sarah Palin routed her father in the 2006 Gubernatorial primary, Palin and conservatives backed Joe Miller in 2010. Though Miller beat Murkowski in the primary, she launched a surprisingly successful write-in campaign and ended up winning a close three-way race.

Iowa: Joni Ernst

  • First Elected: 2014
  • Next Election: 2020
Joni Ernst
Joni Ernst. Getty Images 

Joni Ernst was the surprise candidate of the 2014 election cycle as she handily won the US Senate seat vacated by long-serving Democrat Tom Harkin. Democrat Bruce Braley was supposed to be the easy winner, but Ernst played to her Iowa roots and got off to a fast start after running a television spot comparing the castration of pigs to cutting pork in Washington. Ernst is a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard and had served in the Iowa State Senate since 2011. She won her US Senate seat in 2014 by 8.5 points.

Maine: Susan Collins

  • First Elected: 1996
  • Next Election: 2020

Susan Collins is a moderate Republican from the Northeast, one of the few remaining as liberal Democrats have steadily increased their hold in the region. She is socially liberal and center-right on economic issues and she was a strong advocate for small businesses prior to her career in the US Senate. Collins is easily the most popular figure in the state and has seen her vote share increase in every election since 1996 when she won with just 49 percent of the vote. In 2002, she won with 58 percent of the vote, followed by 62 percent in 2012, then 68 percent in 2014. In 2020, she will be 67 years old and Republicans hope she stays around a bit longer.

Nebraska: Deb Fischer

  • First Elected: 2012
  • Next Election: 2018

Deb Fischer represented one of the few highlights in the 2012 election for both conservatives and the Republican Party. She was not expected to be a contender in the GOP primary and was heavily outspent by two higher-profile Republicans in the state. Near the end of the primary campaign, Fischer received the endorsement of Sarah Palin and subsequently surged in the polls, landing a surprise win in the primary. Democrats saw this as an opening for former US Senator Bob Kerrey, who held the seat as recently until 2001. But it wasn't meant to be for the Democrats, and she defeated him in the general election by a landslide. Fischer is a rancher by trade and served in the state legislature since 2004.

Senators Deb Fischer (lower center) and Shelley Moore Capito (above) celebrate passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Senators Deb Fischer (lower center) and Shelley Moore Capito (above) celebrate passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Getty Images

West Virginia: Shelley Moore Capito

  • First Elected: 2014
  • Next Election: 2020

Shelley Moore Capito served seven terms in the US House of Representatives before deciding on a run for the US Senate. At the time, five-term Democratic incumbent Jay Rockefeller had not yet announced his plans. He opted for retirement rather than face the first real challenge of his career in more than two decades. Capito easily won both the Republican primary and the general election, becoming the first woman elected to the US Senate in West Virginia history. She also won a Senate seat for the GOP for the first time since the 1950s. Capito is a moderate Republican, but a solid upgrade from the 50-plus year drought for conservatives in the state.

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Hawkins, Marcus. "Republican Women in the US Senate." ThoughtCo, Aug. 29, 2020, Hawkins, Marcus. (2020, August 29). Republican Women in the US Senate. Retrieved from Hawkins, Marcus. "Republican Women in the US Senate." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).