Largest number of women governors possible this year

MBy Jessica Pitts
Kansas State Collegian
Kansas State University

mANHATTAN, Kan. (U-WIRE) – Some people say it is a major step. Others say it is about time. Whatever the opinion, the answer seems clear – women are emerging in powerful governmental positions. In fact, women could take over a record number of governors’ offices this year.

“It is expected,” said professor of political science, Linda Richter. “Women have been working their way up through the political pipelines for awhile. There are literally thousands of women who are getting their credentials, and they are starting to emerge.”

And are they ever. Women are challenging 14 of the 50 governor positions this November, and as many as eight are strong bets to win.

“Voters are looking past gender and more into pocketbook issues,” said Sue Peterson, director of governmental relations for Kansas State University, “and that is what women stand for. They are concerned about paying bills, providing for the family and education. This doesn’t exclude men from having these same concerns – it just seems like women think about them more because of their interest.”

Winning the governor seat means women would become the dominant political power brokers in their states and perhaps increase the chance that the United States might get its first female president.

“It is a stepping stone,” Richter said. “More people are more accustomed to having women in politics, so I think it is just a matter of time before women break those barriers.”

Until then, the barriers keep coming down. In Congress, women now have 13 of 100 Senate seats and 60 of 435 House seats. But the race for governor still seems to be the hot ticket.

“Governors are looked at as potential candidates for president,” said Kathleen Sebelius, the democratic nominee for governor in Kansas. “It is considered the CEO of the state, and serving in that executive position might break some barriers because women are not typically in those CEO positions. It is a step towards opening that door.”

A door to a different style of governing, Sebelius said.

“Women often have different life experiences than men,” she said.

“They are mothers and caretakers of older parents. Their work experience is different — they tend to be in health care, teaching or child care. And those experiences bring something different to a legislative discussion.

“The decisions made in those discussions will be more of a representation of the entire population when the different experiences and opinions are brought in.”

The female candidates also would bring in experience. Among the gubernatorial candidates, two are attorney generals, two are lieutenant governors, one is secretary of state, three are state treasurers, one is a state insurance commissioner, one is a former U.S. attorney general and one is a statewide education official.

“They are ready. They have the experience,” Richter said. “The party is ready. The public is ready. The only problem is getting more women to put themselves forward as candidates because so many more are qualified.

“They need to realize when they run, they are going to have a good chance to win. Hopefully, this election will set the standards and encourage even more to enter the pool.”