Record Number of Women Elected As Governors

From a Wall Street Journal story by Catherine Lucey headlined “Record Number of Women Were Elected Governor in 2022”:

A record number of women were elected as governors in the midterm elections, with female candidates from both parties winning executive roles that have historically been challenging for women to secure.

A total of 12 women—eight Democrats and four Republicans—won bids for governor in 2022. Of that group, eight already held the title and four were newcomers. The previous high-water mark of nine women serving as governor at the same time was set in 2004, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which researches women in politics and runs programs aimed at boosting participation.

Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders became the first woman elected governor of Arkansas. Democrat Maura Healey was the first woman elected as governor of Massachusetts. Democrat Kathy Hochul, who took office after Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned last year, is the first woman elected governor of New York. Ms. Healey and Democrat Tina Kotek of Oregon are the nation’s first openly lesbian governors.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said voters are now more likely to see women as leaders. “Nobody questions whether they can lead,” she said.

The increase in women winning governorships follows decades of work by outside groups, as well as efforts by the political parties, to train and recruit women to run for office, said Debbie Walsh, director of CAWP. She said that has contributed to more women winning state-level positions that help pave the way for a bid for governor.

Most of the women who won in 2022 were already serving as governor, including Ms. Hochul, who had previously been lieutenant governor of New York. Of the four who are new to the job, Ms. Healey, Ms. Kotek and Democrat Katie Hobbs, who won in Arizona, all recently held prominent state offices. Ms. Sanders was a household name who served in former President Donald Trump’s White House and is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

More women ran for governor in 2022 than ever before. A total of 69 women ran in the primaries as major party candidates this year, beating the previous high of 61. Of those, 25 women became their parties’ nominees, above the previous high of 16.

In states like Michigan, Oregon and Arizona, both major party candidates for governor were women. The contest in Arizona pitted Ms. Hobbs against former television news anchor Kari Lake, an ally of Mr. Trump and one of the most prominent candidates falsely claiming the 2020 presidential election was stolen. She has also filed a lawsuit against Maricopa County officials related to the 2022 results.

In some states with close races, women running as Democrats likely got a boost from voters concerned about abortion in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Ms. Hochul focused her campaign on the topic. In Michigan, voters passed a ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution and re-elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly narrowly won re-election after voters in her state rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have ended protections for abortion. She beat Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who said that he opposed abortion but that the results of the referendum should be respected.

Ms. Lake, the pollster, said abortion is an issue on which Democratic women are seen as strong.

Ms. Walsh of CAWP said that while the gains for women in this election were significant, there is still work to be done to advance all women in politics. She noted that the majority of the women who have been elected are white and that no Black women have ever been elected as governors.

CAWP is among the groups that have worked to get more women to run for office, running nonpartisan trainings in New Jersey and with partners around the country for decades. Organizations that recruit and support Democratic women include Emily’s List, which raises money for Democratic women who support abortion rights, and Emerge, which provides trainings. For Republican women, the National Federation of Republican Women offers training programs. The trainings can cover skills like fundraising, talking to the media and political strategy.

There are 147 women in the current Congress out of 535 seats, according to CAWP. Women have made gains in other fields as well. The number of women leading Fortune 500 companies hit a record high of 44 this year.

Women who have served in top roles say that electing women often motivates others to run for office and can lead to more women appointed to key positions.

“I like to think the fact that I served, even if it was in the 1990s, it at least set a pattern that voters could look at and see that women could do the job,” said Democrat Barbara Roberts, who was elected Oregon’s first female governor in 1991. Ms. Kotek will be its third female governor.

Some of the women elected this year have gotten attention as possible presidential hopefuls, such as Ms. Whitmer, who won in what had been expected to be a difficult year for Democrats, and Ms. Sanders, who has a strong national profile. Both said their focus was on their current roles.

“Governors can make great presidents,” said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who in 2014 became the first woman elected governor of Rhode Island. She stepped down to join President Biden‘s administration. “Having more women with executive leadership, experience in government and business, it is a good thing.” The Democrat, who has been discussed as a possible presidential candidate or Treasury secretary, said she is happy in her current role and supports Mr. Biden, who has said he intends to run for re-election.

While 17 former governors have been president, a governor hasn’t won the White House since former President George W. Bush, who was first elected in 2000 after serving as governor of Texas. The only woman to be a major party nominee for president, Hillary Clinton, had served in the Senate, but not as governor. Vice President Kamala Harris also has Senate, but not gubernatorial, experience.

Ms. Sanders said that she wanted people to vote based on her qualifications and that she connected with voters as a mother of young children. Ms. Sanders featured her children in campaign ads, including one showing her son learning that money he earned doing chores wasn’t enough to cover his purchases at the grocery store due to inflation.

“Everywhere we went we had moms that came up that felt like they could connect,” she said.

In Michigan, Ms. Whitmer made abortion access a centerpiece of her campaign, talking about her experience as a victim of sexual assault and her concerns about her college-aged daughters. She also talked about being a caregiver to her daughters and her late mother.

“I believe that there was a point in time where being a mom was probably not a strength for a candidate or for an officeholder,” Ms. Whitmer said. “I think that mom cred has value now.”

Women from both parties said they brought their own perspective to the role.

After Christine Todd Whitman was elected governor of New Jersey in 1993, she was the only female governor in the country for a time. One of her early pieces of legislation required insurance companies to extend the time women could stay in the hospital after giving birth.

“White males don’t have all the right answers,” said Ms. Whitman, a longtime Republican who recently co-founded a centrist third party called the Forward Party.

Catherine Lucey covers the White House for The Wall Street Journal. She focuses on politics, gender and domestic policy issues in her coverage of the Biden administration. She joined the Journal from the Associated Press, where she covered the White House, national politics and the 2016 presidential race.

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