When Susan Brooks retires at the end of her current term in 2020, she will likely leave the U.S. House with one fewer Republican woman.
That’s a big deal if you believe, as we do at IBJ, that having diverse representation is important in both parties and in all states.
Women make up less than a quarter of the seats in the House, even though women hold a slight majority of the U.S. population. And of the 102 women in the chamber, only 13 are Republicans. Brooks is one of those few.
In Indiana, Brooks is one of only two women in Congress. Republican Jackie Walorski of Indiana’s 2nd District is the state’s only other female House member. Both of Indiana’s senators are men.
Why does that matter? So many reasons.
Research shows that women are more likely to introduce legislation aimed at problems that most affect women and families. University researchers writing a column in The Washington Post said that “on average, women in Congress dedicated a greater proportion of their time to issues of health, education, family, housing, labor and civil rights.”
Women are also more active lawmakers (of course, that could be a positive or negative, depending on your point of view). A 2018 analysis by Quorum, a public policy software firm, found women introduce more bills, sign on more co-sponsors and are more likely to work with lawmakers from the opposing party than their male counterparts.
And surveys by the Center for American Women and Politics find that women “have increased the extent to which the business of the Legislature is conducted in public, as opposed to behind closed doors.”
This is not an argument that women are better legislators. It’s a recognition that there are differences in the way male and female lawmakers do their jobs and represent their constituents—and that diversity of opinion and action is important.
Of course, it’s possible that a woman will replace Brooks in representing Indiana’s 5th District.
Already, Democrat Dee Thorton has said she’ll run again (she lost to Brooks in 2018). And Christina Hale, a former Democratic state lawmaker who ran for lieutenant governor in 2016, is thought to be considering a run. Possible Republican contenders include both men and women.
IBJ welcomes a field that includes female candidates, although we don’t think it’s ever appropriate to vote for a woman simply because of her gender. Instead, the parties need to work harder to find strong female candidates who earn votes on their merits—people like Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski.
To that end, we’re pleased that while Brooks is not seeking re-election, she is staying on as recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2020 election cycle. And Brooks has said that her decision not to seek re-election will give her more time for that role.
She has a history of supporting female candidates, with both moral support and money, and we look forward to seeing the talented women she can recruit to run—in Indiana and other states.
What we want to see most for Indiana’s 5th District is a smart, savvy representative who can move into leadership and wield power for the state. If that representative happens to be a woman, then all the better.•
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