Colorado Legislature poised to be second in country with women in majority

By: - November 16, 2022 9:37 am

Members of the Colorado House of Representatives on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)

The Colorado Legislature is poised to have more women than men in 2023 for the first time in the state’s history, with 51% of Colorado’s state legislators being women following the 2022 midterm elections.

Assuming several remaining close races are all called as expected, Colorado will have 39 women in the state House and 12 women in the state Senate in 2023 — meaning a total of 51 women in the 100-seat Legislature. House Democrats will have 34 women and House Republicans will have five women in office, while Senate Democrats will have 10 women and Senate Republicans will have two women in office.

Prior to the election this month, the highest percentage of women Colorado’s Legislature had was 48%, at the start of the 2019 session. It decreased to 46% by the end of the session, and back down to 44% in 2020 and 2021, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutger’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. In the 2022 session it rose back up 1 percentage point to 45%, making the 2023 session the highest, at an anticipated 51%.

The figure will make Colorado the second state to reach this milestone: Nevada was the first state to have more women than men in a state legislature, when two women were appointed to vacancies in December 2018.

Martha Saenz, associate director of the Women’s Legislative Network, part of the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that while Nevada still has some races to call women are expected to account for about 61% of the Legislature across both chambers — the highest representation in the nation.

Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics, said while there are still some states where it’s numerically possible to have another legislature with women as the majority, it will most likely only be Nevada and Colorado following this election cycle. She said Colorado reaching this milestone is another way to observe how the country is seeing greater gender parity in politics and how well it actually serves as a representative democracy.

“When we think about majority women legislatures, it’s an indicator that finally the legislative body in this state is reflective of the population it serves vis-a-vis gender, and that is not true along so many lines of identity, including gender, across the country and across history,” Dittmar said. She added that when there are more women, it also allows for greater diversity among those women, which she called a “reflection of good democracy.”

In Colorado, the state House has had women in the majority before and will be about 60% women next year, Saenz said, but the Senate still sits at around 40% women. Across the country, the average representation of women in state legislatures is 31%, she said.

Colorado House Democrats just elected Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon as speaker, along with multiple other women in leadership roles in the House and the Senate. Rep. Brianna Titone of Arvada was the state’s first transgender lawmaker and will now also be the first trans lawmaker in a leadership role as majority caucus co-chair.

Colorado became the first state to have any women elected to a state legislature in 1894, when three women were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives.

This article first appeared in the Colorado Newsline, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner in the States Newsroom Network.

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Lindsey Toomer
Lindsey Toomer

Lindsey Toomer covers politics, social justice and other stories for the Colorado Newsline. She formerly reported on city government at the Denver Gazette and on Colorado mountain town government, education and environment at the Summit Daily News. Toomer graduated from Pennsylvania State University, where she also served as managing editor of The Daily Collegian, with degrees in journalism and global studies.