Women’s governor hopefuls break record with primary win

Even with several US primaries still to go, female candidates for governor are already breaking records. At least 20 female state candidates have received their party’s nomination and will be on the November ballot, breaking the previous record of 16, set in 2018.

“It’s interesting because this is an area where women’s underrepresentation has been quite persistent,” says Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) and associate professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden. “It disrupts gendered perceptions of who can and should lead … we’ve had a very stubborn bias about the relationship between executive and masculine qualities.”

There are now nine women governors in the United States, the most.

So far this year, there are 13 female Democratic and 7 Republican nominees for governor, according to CAWP. And while a major political party candidate is no guarantee of winning the office, the numbers raise the possibility that there could soon be a record number of women holding the highest level in their states.

“This is a powerful and influential political position where we want women’s voices and experiences to be heard. But it is especially important as we see that major policy issues are being reassigned to the states,” says Dittmar. “When we think about abortion or voting rights or education — where a lot of our major policy discussions today are at the state level, and governors are going to play a key role in that.” And that’s why it’s more important to have women in these positions now.”

Republican Tudor Dixon (top) will face incumbent Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November, one of at least five women-versus-women matchups this year.

A total of 47 gubernatorial candidates have already been selected for the midterm elections in November. With 36 of the 50 states electing their governors this year, another 25 nominees have yet to be chosen. Several women — both Democrats and Republicans — are running for those seats.

There are also more women vs. women governor matchups in 2022 than ever before. In all of American history, there have only been four all-female gubernatorial races. This year they have already reached five, which underlines the fact that women do not all think alike.

“Women are not uniform in their experience, in their perspective and their agenda and position,” says Dittmar. “It’s a good reminder for us not to assume that women are the same in the way that we don’t make that assumption for men who are competing with each other.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams is hoping to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in hopes of becoming the nation's first black woman governor.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is hoping to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in hopes of becoming the nation’s first black woman governor.

Seeing women in positions of power sends an important message to donors, voters and prospective female candidates about women’s ability to succeed at the highest political levels, Dittmar says. It also helps fulfill the promise of representative government, one of the key tenets of democracy.

But having women in these high public positions is not enough when it comes to representative government, she says.

“We want to have enough women in these offices so that there is diversity in them,” says Dittmar. “You know, we’ve only had three women of color governors in the entire history of the United States. We have only one woman of color serving as governor. We’ve never had a black woman governor.”

Women’s governor hopefuls break record with primary win

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