2016 Congressional Election: Candidates and Diversity

The 114th Congress was the most diverse one ever, and the 2016 General Election may provide for even more gains in increasing diversity among members of the United States Congress. In the 2014 General election 138 persons of color ran for election to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and 84 won, a total that might be surpassed this year. Racial and ethnic diversity in Congress has almost continually increased since the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And, gender diversity has also continued to grow since 1917 with the first election of a woman to Congress.


Here I will give a brief on the state of candidate diversity in the 2016 congressional election: women, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, LGBT candidates and Black candidates. Information of Latin@/Hispanic candidates is currently unavailable. The following sections will show a total count of 505 diversity candidates running for Congress in 2016. Many of these candidates have  overlapping diversity in the form of gender and race, race and LGBT identity, and even multiple racial and ethnic identities like Rep. Bobby Scott who is both Black and Asian.

Women Candidates

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers has created an “Election 2016: List of Women Candidates” that includes all women who are currently running for federal and statewide office, also those who ran in primaries earlier this year. The CAWP list provides a detailed set of information about each candidate: state, office they are running for, district, name of the candidate, party of the candidate, type of run (incumbent, challenger or open), date they filed for candidacy, and whether they won or lost the primary. Many also have links to the candidates’ official website. A CAWP executive summary of women candidates running for office in the 2016 General Election shows that a total 167 women will be running for a seat in the House of Representatives and 16 will be running for the United States Senate. A grand total of 183 women candidates are running for Congress, 9 more than the 174 that ran in 2014. A total of 104 women are serving in the 114th Congress, 84 in the House and 20 in the Senate.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Candidates

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) has created a “2016 Elections – Federal & State” list of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) candidates currently running for federal and statewide office including those who ran in the primaries. The list provides the office, state, name of the candidate, type of run, party of the candidate, district, gender, geographic area and primary results. There are a total 44 AAPI candidates running for Congress, 12 for Senate and 32 for the House, in addition to non-voting candidates to represent Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa as Delegates to Congress. This candidate total is greater than that in the 2014
General Election by 5 candidacies where 39 AAPI candidates ran for office. A total 14 AAPI’s are currently serving in the 114th Congress, one of which is serving in the Senate.

LGBT Candidates

Currently there are six openly gay and lesbian persons serving in the 114th Congress, all of whom are running for re-election and are the co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. The LGBT Victory Fund, a non partisan organization supporting the election of LGBT candidates, has a comprehensive list of LGBT candidates who are running for office at all levels of government from local to federal office. The list shows that 13 LGBT candidates are running for Congress in 2016, 12 for the House and 1 for the Senate.

Black Candidates

The Congressional Black Caucus currently has 45 members who are serving the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. In 2014, a total 83 Black candidates ran for Congress, 80 for the House (2 of whom are non.voting delegates). and 3 for the Senate. The 2016 election has two fewer Black candidates than in 2014 for a total of 81. This includes 59 running for the House, 2 for the Senate, and 2 non-voting delegates to the House, one from U.S. Virgin Islands and one the District of Columbia. This information was provided to me by Dr. David Bositis, former senior researcher of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (for more information on access to this list email me at icuevasm(at)polsci(dot)umass(dot)edu).





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