For those of us who watch the number of elected women ebb and flow, we can’t help but get a little excited every time we see a “year of the woman politician” story coming down the pipeline. Sometimes, the results don’t bear up to the hype, such as the infamous “year of the woman” in 2010 that instead led to the lowest number of female politicians in Congress in decades. But although 2012, and subsequent special elections, reversed that trend, one place where female politicians continue to be lacking is in the governor’s mansion.
Maybe that is about to change.
As Politico notes, 2014 may in fact finally be the year of the Woman Governor, a change many are anxious for. Traditionally, state governorships have been the conduits for those who will eventually run for president, a streak that was broken in 2008 but still remains one of the most likely paths to the White House. With only a handful of women currently in the governor’s office, that makes the likelihood of a female president in the near future frustratingly remote, mostly due to the lack of a deep bench.
This cycle, according to the political news outlet, the bench might get deeper. According to Politico, although there are currently only five female governors, at least four are expected to win reelection and still be in office in 2014. Meanwhile, three other favorable races in Texas, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts could also be gains for women in office. If all three succeed and all five current governors win their reelection battles, that would put the country at eight women governors, with nine being the most ever holding office at once.
Even better, there are a number of female candidates who could also pick up the governor’s mansion if they make it through their party’s primary. Many, like new EMILY’s List endorsed Democratic candidate Mary Burke, would face hard slogs against Republican incumbents, like she would in running against Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, but still see a definite path to victory possible. “Mary has the kind of candidate resume Scott Walker could only dream of,” EMILY’s List’s Stephanie Schriock said in an email release. “From playing a vital role with the Boys and Girls Club, to creating jobs, to serving as Wisconsin’s Commerce Secretary, Mary’s dedicated a lifetime to ensuring strong economic development for her home.
That 2014 could literally be a record breaker is a positive change. It’s also frankly a little sad. Even if we do manage to elect 10 women, putting more of them in governorships than ever before, they would still represent only 20 percent of the states, a sad commentary when it comes to women in power. And for a number of states, such as my own Minnesota, having a female governor is still as far away as ever. Although we came close in 2010, Margaret Anderson Kelliher lost the primary to now Governor Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, leaving us unlikely to see a woman run the state until at least 2018 if not longer.
According to the Center for American Women in Politics, 24 states have still never had a female governor.
Despite the number of states lagging behind, and the lack of overall parity when it comes to gender in the governor’s mansion, there’s still a lot to be excited about when it comes to looking ahead at 2014. Not only is the number of women governors expected to grow, but the number of female governors who support reproductive rights should grow, as well. With only one pro-choice governor, Gov. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, it’s difficult for that picture to get any worse, that’s for sure.
So, welcome, Year of the Woman Governor. I’ll be sure to keep my eye on you. And here’s hoping you live up to all the hype.
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