Record Number of Women Ascend to Governors Offices
The 2022 midterms were a record-breaking year for women candidates. Several states already have made history with electing their first-time female governor and some are yet to be decided as votes are still being tallied.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by The 19th.
At least 11 women are poised to win governorships following Tuesday’s election, a record number. Up until Tuesday, only nine women had served as governor at the same time. Just 45 women have served as governor in American history. But that will change, pending two races in Arizona and Oregon that have only women candidates.
Twenty-five women had been on the ballot Election Day as major-party nominees in 36 governor’s races, another record.
Maura Healey has won in Massachusetts, Decision Desk HQ projects, and will be the first out lesbian governor in U.S. history. A number of women Democrats won reelection in competitive races, including Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Kansas’ Laura Kelly.
Here are live results for 14 key governor’s races The 19th is watching:
In a campaign ad released in the spring, Ivey claimed “blue state liberals” and others “stole” the 2020 election from Trump. She later told television station WVTM 13 that she believes Trump won the election.
Democrat Katie Hobbs and Republican Kari Lake are in a tight race for an open seat in one of the most closely watched governor’s races in the country.
Hobbs, the current secretary of state, has staked her campaign on protecting elections and democracy. Lake, a former local television anchor, has never been elected to office and has made election denialism a key issue for her campaign. Lake has called the 2020 election “stolen” and Biden an “illegitimate president.” If she is elected, she would help oversee elections in a battleground state that is expected to have an outsize role in the 2024 presidential election.
Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders has won, Decision Desk HQ projects, making her the first woman to be elected governor of Arkansas.
Sanders has never been elected to office, but she’s gained name recognition as a former White House press secretary for Trump and as the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Sanders, who has highlighted her ties to Trump’s administration on the campaign trail, has expressed some doubt about the 2020 election. She told the Texarkana Gazette ahead of the May primary: “I don't think we’ll ever know the depths of how much fraud existed.” If Leslie Rutledge — the state’s current attorney general and the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor — is elected alongside Sanders, the two would be among the first women in the country to serve together in the top posts.
Democrat Stacey Abrams has lost to incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Decision Desk HQ projects. Georgia has also never elected a woman governor.
Abrams emphasized the importance of voting access in her second bid for governor and spent time on the trail highlighting issues including abortion, health care and economic inequality.
Kemp is among the most prominent Republicans to dismiss Trump’s claims about problems with the 2020 election. Abrams has criticized Kemp’s policies around voting, which voting rights groups warn could make it harder for some people to vote.
Abrams refused to concede after her 2018 loss, claiming that Kemp suppressed voter turnout. Kemp denies this, and in October a judge tossed a related lawsuit filed by a voting rights group founded by Abrams.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, the first woman elected governor of Iowa, won reelection to a second four-year term. She faced a challenge from Democrat Deidre DeJear, a business owner who is the first Black woman to win a major party’s nomination for statewide office in Iowa. DeJear has never been elected to office, and Republicans hold many levers of political power in the increasingly ruby red state, including control of the legislature.
Reynolds has gained national prominence as one of just three Republican women governors in the country. In March, she delivered the Republican Party’s rebuttal to Biden’s State of the Union address.
After 2020, Reynolds expressed public support for a Texas lawsuit that would have invalidated election results in several key battleground states.
Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won reelection in a conservative-leaning state where Republicans who control the legislature have clashed with her policies. She faced Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a longtime statewide official who has been critical of Kelly’s pandemic response.
Schmidt was among several elected officials who signed their state onto a lawsuit filed in Texas that would have invalidated the 2020 presidential election results, though he has made private statements in recent months acknowledging that “Kansas elections are solid.”
While the state generally votes for Republicans, in August, voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed legislators to restrict access to abortion. Kelly campaigned on issues like the economy instead of highlighting her role in blocking proposed abortion restrictions that have come up in the legislature.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills beat back a challenge from Paul LePage, a two-term former Republican governor who clashed with members of both major parties during his time in office. He notoriously said he was “Donald Trump before Donald Trump.” He has made his criticism of Mills’ response to the pandemic a key issue for his campaign.
LePage initially questioned the results of the 2020 elections, calling it “stolen.” But he shifted course during an October debate: “I believe that President Biden won the election.”
Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey beat Trump-backed Republican Geoff Diehl, Decision Desk HQ projects. Kim Driscoll, mayor of the Massachusetts city of Salem, won the lieutenant governor seat alongside Healey — setting up a historic two-women winning ticket.
While Diehl once told Republicans to accept the results of the 2020 election, he told local press in August: “I was wrong initially. It definitely was an election that was stolen from Trump, and it was rigged in a way that should never happen again.”
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held off a challenge from Trump-endorsed Tudor Dixon, who had emerged from a crowded and chaotic Republican field. Whitmer gained national prominence during Trump’s presidency for her public criticism of his policies.
Whitmer made abortion access a key issue for her campaign and tried to legally challenge a dormant 1931 law that nearly bans the procedure.
Dixon, a conservative media personality, agreed with other candidates during primary debates in May and June that widespread voter fraud occurred in Michigan during the 2020 election. But she later declined to answer a question about whether she thought the election was stolen.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has defeated Mark Ronchettia, a former TV meteorologist who was endorsed by Trump, Decision Desk HQ projects.
Lujan Grisham, who was elected in 2018, is only the third woman of color to ever be elected governor in the country. She outraised all her opponents as she countered criticism about her response to the pandemic — which included extended restrictions on gatherings. Lujan Grisham has defended her decisions, saying they helped save lives in the state. Lujan Grisham also focused on abortion access during her campaign while Ronchetti focused his messaging on the economy and public safety around crime.
Ronchetti told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper earlier this year that he believes Biden is the legitimately elected president; a spokesperson added that the Republican candidate does not think the election was stolen. The nonprofit news outlet Source New Mexico reported in October that Ronchetti has received campaign donations from people connected to a scheme involving fake electors trying to overturn the 2020 presidential results.
Democrat Kathy Hochul won a full term on Tuesday, Decision Desk HQ projects, beating Republican Lee Zeldin.
Hochul became New York’s first woman governor last year when her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned in disgrace over allegations of sexual misconduct. (He has mostly denied wrongdoing.)
Zeldin, a congressman, highlighted crime statistics and reports of a rocky economy to try to gain footing in a state that leans Democratic. Hochul countered that narrative while emphasizing support for abortion access. Recent polls showed a tightening race.
Zeldin has not made recent public remarks about the 2020 election, but text messages obtained by the January 6 committee show the congressman communicating with former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on ideas to challenge the results.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt won reelection. He had faced a challenge from Democrat Joy Hofmeister, the state superintendent of education and a former Republican who switched parties in 2021.
Polling in the final weeks of the race showed it tightening despite the state overwhelmingly voting for Trump in 2020. Several of the state’s largest Native tribes endorsed Hofmeister.
A historic three-woman race is playing out in Oregon, featuring Republican Christine Drazan, Democrat Tina Kotek and third-party candidate Betsy Johnson.
The seat is open — Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is term-limited — creating competitive conditions for any of the candidates to win. The outcome could disrupt a West Coast alliance on abortion access and threaten LGBTQ+ rights within a progressive state. If Kotek wins, she would be one of the country’s first out lesbian governors.
Drazan has told local press that Biden is the president.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem won reelection to a second term, holding off a challenge from the state House minority leader, Democrat Jamie Smith, in this heavily Republican state.
Noem gained national attention after the start of the pandemic for challenging mitigation measures. More recently, she signed the first anti-trans law of the year and signed an executive order that prohibits mandated teaching of “divisive concepts” in K-12 schools.
Days after the 2020 election, Noem made debunked claims about widespread fraud. She then attended Biden’s inauguration, but later raised doubts about whether the election was fair everywhere.
“We have a result,” she said in January 2021. “We have a president that was elected. He is in office. I am willing to work with him and I believe he is our president of the United States. And I also think there are some reforms that should be pursued in some states where we've seen some places where there wasn't … potential integrity.”