Women Are Scarce in Governors' and AG Offices. Democrats Aim to Change That.

September 19, 2017

Hillary Clinton’s defeat last year sparked an intense debate about the role of gender in American politics, but the presidential race overshadowed a deeper structural challenge for Democrats: They have a scarcity of female officeholders in state capitals.

Only two governors and five state attorneys general are Democratic women, an acute problem for a party that counts women as a pillar of its base and trumpets the value of diverse representation.

Moving to address the disparity, the Democratic Attorneys General Association gathered here last week to announce a commitment to ensuring that in five years, at least half of the party’s attorneys general will be women. The group is creating a committee of current and former attorneys general and other partners to recruit, train and raise money for female candidates as part of what they are calling the 1881 Initiative, named for the first year that a woman sought, unsuccessfully, the office of state attorney general. (Two did, in California and Illinois.)

“We’re supposed to be living in a representative democracy, and yet the people who hold office don’t reflect the diversity of the population they serve,” said Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, who is co-chairwoman of the effort. She is one of 22 Democratic attorneys general altogether.

For Democrats, confronting the paucity of women in prominent state posts is not just a matter of gender equity and public relations. The office of attorney general has often served as a steppingstone to election as senator or governor, thanks to the executive power it wields and attention it draws from both donors and the news media. Three Democratic women in the Senate were state attorneys general, including Senator Kamala Harris of California, who is thought to be considering a presidential bid.

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