Nevada becomes first U.S. state with majority of women lawmakers

(Reuters) – Nevada has become the first U.S. state with a female-majority legislature after two Las Vegas women were appointed to fill vacancies in the Assembly, another milestone in a year women won a record number of seats in the U.S. Congress.

While women have held majorities in individual legislative chambers in other states, the appointment late Tuesday of Democrats Beatrice Duran and Rochelle Nguyen to the state Assembly gave Nevada a female majority across the legislature.

The appointments will give women 23 of the 42 seats in the state Assembly for the term beginning Feb. 4. Women already held nine of the 21 seats in the Senate, and now will represent 51 percent of Nevada’s 63 combined lawmakers.

“We’re moving in the right direction in terms of women’s political progress and their representation within all of our political institutions, including our legislatures,” said Kelly Dittmar, who teaches political science at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey.

“Let’s make it the first of many,” 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Twitter in response to the news.

Despite the breakthrough in Nevada, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University said that women still will hold only 28.6 percent of 7,383 seats in state legislatures across the country.

At the federal level, of 237 women who ran for House of Representatives seats last month, 102 of them won, shattering the previous record of 86 women currently in the House, the center said.

Two other states — New Hampshire in its Senate in 2009-10 and Colorado in its House this year — have had female majorities in one legislative chamber, Katie Ziegler, a program manager at the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

Voters in Nevada, one of six states that will have two women U.S. senators next year, had already elected a bare majority of women to the state Assembly last month.

But it was the appointment of a woman to a vacant Senate seat last week and the net gain of one woman in the Assembly with the appointments of Duran and Nguyen that gave the state its first-in-the-country overall female legislative majority, Ziegler said.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell

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