WASHINGTON — Republican women delivered critical victories to their party in the election, signaling the success of their efforts to recruit and elect a more diverse slate of candidates as they sought to counter Democrats’ huge advantage in adding women to their ranks in Congress.
Conservative women were nearing a historic level of representation in the House, more than doubling the number of female Republican incumbents in the chamber as they scored key upsets in battlegrounds across the country and beat back Democratic challengers flush with cash.
Republicans were celebrating their success at chipping away at Democrats’ House majority and feeling increasingly confident of maintaining control of the Senate. By Wednesday evening, they had elected 22 women and were on track to have the highest number of them serving in their congressional ranks, surpassing the previous record of 25 women elected in 2004.
Those wins came as Republicans fought to protect female incumbents in the Senate, where Joni Ernst of Iowa prevailed in her competitive race, Kelly Loeffler advanced to a runoff in Georgia, and Susan Collins won a decisive victory in her re-election race in Maine. Cynthia Lummis, a former House lawmaker, became the first Republican woman to represent Wyoming in the Senate, replacing the retiring incumbent, Senator Michael B. Enzi.
By Wednesday afternoon, Democrats had defeated only one Republican woman in the Senate, Martha McSally of Arizona, who had been expected to lose.
Republicans were still lagging far behind Democrats, who have spent years and huge sums to recruit and elect women across the country. But the Republican gains reflected the success of an urgent effort they undertook two years ago to make up for their widening deficit in enlisting women to run.
“In many ways, this cycle for the Republican women is a very simple story,” said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “You can’t see numeric gains in officeholders unless you have increases in number of candidates.”
But to reach gender parity in Congress, she cautioned, Republicans would have to continue prioritizing the recruitment of women in both chambers and not interpret their success on Tuesday as “a one and done.”
“These are important gains. They need to be celebrated; they need to be acknowledged,” Ms. Walsh said. “But women are still very underrepresented on the Republican side.”
The pickups were particularly remarkable in the House, where Democrats swept to power in 2018 by running a diverse class of contenders and sent a historic group of women into office. Just one new Republican woman, Representative Carol Miller of West Virginia, was elected to the chamber that year, raising alarms inside the party conference.
That set off a scramble by Republican leaders to steal a page from the Democratic recruiting playbook, eschewing the kind of candidates they had previously turned to — white, male, often veterans of politics — in favor of newcomers with diverse backgrounds.
“The Republican Party vowed to make gains among G.O.P. women, and it