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2012 Could Be Key for Female Senate Dems

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- 2010 was not a great year for women in Congress.  Although the midterm elections in that cycle saw a historic victory for the GOP, their 60-seat victory led to the first decrease in female representation in Congress in 30 years.

In 2012, however, things could look much different for women.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., in December, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, declared that 2012 would be a “historic year” for women in the United States Senate.

On Thursday, Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, a political action committee (PAC) that supports pro-choice, female Democratic candidates for office, echoed Murray’s message.

“2012 is a historic year for EMILY’s List,” Schriock told reporters at a pen-and-pad briefing in Washington, D.C.

2012 already marks a historic year for women.  There are seven female senators who are up for re-election in this cycle -- the greatest number ever in the Senate.  Six of those senators are Democrats, while one -- Olympia Snowe of Maine -- is a Republican.

On the challenger side of Senate races, there are five Democratic women candidates currently endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  EMILY’s List is also currently endorsing five female challengers in Senate races, in addition to the six incumbent Democratic senators.

There are four female Republican candidates running in Senate races in addition to Snowe.

Nineteen Senate seats held by Democrats were contested going into the 2010 midterms.  Democrats lost six of those seats, narrowing their majority from a filibuster-proof 60 seats to 53 seats vs. the Republicans’ 47 seats.

This cycle, Democrats will have less wiggle room because of their smaller majority.  Raising the stakes even more is the fact that a greater number of their seats will be in contention.  Twenty-three Senate seats currently occupied by Democrats will be up for re-election in 2012.  A little more than a quarter of those seats are represented by women.

The stakes are high for Republicans, as well.  They need at least four seats in order to win the majority in the Senate.  However, they do have a mathematical advantage: Only 10 Republican senators are up for re-election in this cycle.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio