The women’s gubernatorial hopefuls break records with their primary win

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Even with several primaries still going on in the United States, the two female gubernatorial candidates are already breaking records. At least 20 female gubernatorial candidates have won their party’s nomination and will go on the ballot in November, breaking the previous record of 16, set in 2018.

“It’s noteworthy because this is an area where women’s underrepresentation has persisted to a great extent,” says Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP) and associate professor of political science at Rutgers-Camden University. “This disrupts gendered perceptions of who can and should lead… We have some really violent biases about the association between executive office and masculine traits.”

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

So far this year, there are 13 Democratic and 7 Republican gubernatorial candidates, according to the union’s tracking. And while being the nominee of a major political party isn’t a guarantee of winning office, the numbers make it more likely that there will soon be a record number of women running at the highest level in their states.

“It’s a powerful and influential political site where we want women’s voices and experiences to be heard. But this is especially important because we see key policy issues being brought back to the states,” says Dittmar. “When we think about abortion or voting rights or education — a lot of the key policy debates we have today are at the state level and governors will play a major role in them. And so having women in those positions is even more important now.”

Republican Theodore Dixon (above) will take on incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan in November, one of at least five matches against women this year.

In all, 47 gubernatorial candidates have already been selected ahead of the November midterm elections. With 36 of the 50 states electing their own governors this year, there are 25 more candidates still to be chosen. Many women — Democrats and Republicans — are vying for those positions.

There are also more women-versus-women referee matches in 2022 than ever before. In all of American history, there have only been four women-only contests in the races for governor. This year, there are actually five, which highlights the fact that not all women think alike.

“Women are not homogeneous in their experiences, perspectives, political agendas, and positions,” says Dittmar. “It’s a good reminder for us not to make assumptions that women are the same in ways that we don’t make assumptions about men competing against each other.”

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

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

Seeing women in positions of power, Ditmar says, sends an important message to donors, voters, and potential future candidates about women’s ability to succeed at the highest levels of politics. It also helps fulfill the promise of representative government, which is one of the key building blocks of democracy.

She argues that having women in such high public office is not enough when it comes to representative government.

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

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