We Could Finally See Two Women Elected Governor and Lt. Governor This Year

Amanda Hunter | Oct 3, 2022


It’s been almost 100 years since the inauguration of the first woman governor—Nellie Tayloe Ross in Wyoming—in the United States. More recently, it’s been 14 years since Jan Brewer succeeded Janet Napolitano as governor of Arizona, marking the first time a state had two consecutive women governors. It’s been 12 years since Susana Martinez of New Mexico became the first woman of color elected governor in our country. And it’s been almost two decades since the current record number of women serving as governor at one time, nine, was set (in 2004)—the same number we have today.

This year, it looks likely that women candidates will make significant progress and break a number of barriers at the gubernatorial level. In fact, records have already been set: more women filed to run for governor this year (69), beating the previous record (61), and 24 of those candidates won their primaries and will appear on the ballot in November. That is a 50% rise from the previous record (16) set in 2018.

Another potential “first” that I am excited about: we could see the election of two women to the corner office— as governor and lieutenant governor— which has never happened before. There have been 45 total women governors in our history, and only three were women of color. 106 women have served as lt. governor, and only 16 have been women of color. The fact that none of them were elected together demonstrates how far we still have to go to see women represented proportionally.

(It is worth mentioning that Kathy Hochul and Andrea Stewart-Cousins briefly served together at the top of New York state, before Governor Hochul appointed Brian Benjamin as lt. governor in August 2021. And Oregon, one of seven states that does not have a lt. governor, currently has a woman/woman line of succession with Secretary of State Shemia Fagan second in line to Governor Kate Brown.)

In 2022, Arkansas, my home state of Massachusetts, Ohio, and Oklahoma all have same-party women nominees for both governor and lt. governor on the general election ballot. This signifies a major turning of the tide for women candidates. And it is happening in both parties–Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Leslie Rutledge are running for governor and lt. governor, respectively, on the Republican ticket in Arkansas. Democrats Maura Healey, for governor, and Kim Driscoll, for lt. governor, are running here in Massachusetts.

At the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, our research has long pointed to an “imagination barrier” that keeps voters from being able to picture a woman holding the highest levels of office. After decades and even centuries of seeing duos of men leading states, having two women at the helm for the first time would put a significant crack in that stubborn barrier, and possibly pave the way for more all- or majority-women leadership teams across the country in years to come.

According to The 19th there have been woman/woman tickets in six elections since 2000, but none of them were successful. I am eager to see if 2022 is the year when that changes.



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