Female Governors

Sophie Alsmaan, Staff Writer

2022 became a record holding year for the most women running for governor. Twelve women will be serving as governors in 2023. This now breaks a previous record, set back in 2004 of nine women serving as governor.

 Female governors in Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, Michigan, and South Dakota, were all reelected. Women in three states: Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Oregon were elected for the first time, and New York’s Gov. Kathy Hochul also won her race. She did previously take office following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021. 

According to experts, having more women holding governorships could have many implications for voters in both red and blue states: “We know that [Arkansas Republican] Sarah Huckabee Sanders is going to put forth the same policies as [Massachusetts Democrat] Maura Healey,” says Kelly Ditmarr, a political scientist and director of research for the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Though despite both of their many political differences, they do have meaningful similarities, Ditmarr says. “When we control for party and ideology, we do see women are more likely to raise issues around childcare,” Ditmarr continues. 

Last year was also seen as an unprecedented number of legislative races, specifically between two women. Both majority party nominees were women from Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, and Michigan. Oregon’s legislative races were notable for being a three-way race between three women: Democrat Tina Kotek, who won, Republican Christine Drazan, and independent candidate Betsy Johnson.

Many of these races were historical for several reasons. 

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, and Kotek, in Oregon, became the first openly lesbian woman ever elected for governor. Arkansas, New York, and Massachusetts have all elected female governors for the first time, even though women have previously been appointed to the role in the latter two states. Healey’s lieutenant governor is also a woman, the mayor of Salem, Kim Driscoll. Healey and Driscoll were one of three all-female legislative ticket holders. In Arkansas, Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elected governor alongside her running mate Leslie Rutledge. In Ohio, Democrat Nan Whaley ran for governor with Cheryl Stephens on her ticket, but Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt Gov. Jon Husted won the election.

 Despite these victories, Ditmarr still stresses that there is no guarantee that women will continue to be elected in each election cycle: “When we see success like this, we hit new records of women, we can’t assume that this level of progress is inevitable in the next election,” she says. “We have to be really intentional and thoughtful about how we increase those numbers next time around.”