Women gubernatorial hopefuls break records with primary wins

Even with several US primary elections still to come, female gubernatorial candidates are already breaking records. At least 20 female gubernatorial candidates have won their party’s nomination and will be on the ballot in November, breaking the previous record of 16, which was set in 2018.

“It’s remarkable because it’s an area where women’s underrepresentation is quite persistent,” says Kelly Dittmar, research director 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 very deep-seated biases about the association between executive office and masculine traits.”

There are currently nine female state governors in the United States, the highest number on record.

So far this year, there are 13 Democratic and 7 Republican women gubernatorial nominees, as reported by CAWP. And while running for a major political party isn’t a guarantee of getting elected, the numbers do increase the likelihood that there will soon be a record number of women serving at the highest level in their state.

“This is a powerful and influential political position where we want women’s voices and experiences to be heard. But it’s especially important because we see major political issues being assigned to states,” says Dittmar. “When we think about abortion or voting rights or education – where a lot of our key policy debates are happening today at the state level and governors will play a key role in that. And so having women in these positions is only more important now.

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

A total of 47 gubernatorial candidates have already been shortlisted ahead of November’s midterm elections. With 36 of the 50 states electing their governors this year, another 25 candidates have yet to be selected. Several women – Democrats and Republicans – are vying for these slots.

There are also more female vs. female governor meetings in 2022 than ever before. In all of American history, there have only been four all-female contests in gubernatorial races. This year there are already five, which highlights the fact that not all women think the same way.

“Women are not monolithic in their experiences, in their perspective and in their political programs and positions,” says Dittmar. “It’s a good reminder for us not to assume women are the same in a way that we don’t make that assumption for men competing against each other.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams hopes to overthrow Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp in hopes of becoming the nation's first-ever black female governor.

Democrat Stacey Abrams hopes to overthrow Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp in hopes of becoming the nation’s first-ever black female governor.

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

But having women in those high public offices is not enough when it comes to representative government, she said.

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

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