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When Will Minnesota (or Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota...) Elect a Woman as Governor?

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After holding more than 300 gubernatorial elections across the Upper Midwest during the past 160+ years, the region has yet to elect its first female governor.

With gubernatorial elections taking place in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin next year, will 2010 be the year in which a woman finally breaks through and wins the governor's office in one of these states?

The best (and perhaps only) opportunities for the election of a female governor in the Upper Midwest in 2010 will be in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Three female major party candidates are currently running for Tim Pawlenty's open seat in the Gopher State: DFL Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, and former Republican State Auditor Pat Anderson.

Anderson will also likely be the only female GOPer vying for the governor's office across the Upper Midwestern region this year.

In Wisconsin, Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton is a strong contender to lead the Democratic Party ticket, though rumors have also percolated throughout the year that Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk could jump into the race (Falk ran for governor in 2002, losing in the primary to current Governor Jim Doyle).

No major party female candidates have been announced for the open seat race to replace Republican Mike Rounds in South Dakota and no Republican woman has announced a bid to challenge 1-term Democratic incumbent Chet Culver in Iowa.

South Dakota has never had a Democratic or Republican female candidate on the gubernatorial ballot in 52 elections dating back to statehood in 1889. The Mount Rushmore State's best chance to elect a woman as governor to date may have been at-large blue dog Democratic U.S. Representative Stephanie Herseth during this election cycle. However, Rep. Herseth announced her decision to run for a 5th term in D.C. in July of this year instead.

Wisconsin (with 71 gubernatorial races since statehood) and Minnesota (with 64) have also never had a woman win a major party's gubernatorial slot on the general election ballot to date.

Iowa, however, has seen two women representing major parties contend for the governor's office across the 70 such contests that have been held in the Hawkeye State since its first election in 1846.

Democrat Roxanna Conlin won 46.5 percent of the vote in 1982, losing to Terry Branstad by 6.3 points. Twelve years later, in 1994, Democrat Bonnie Campbell won 41.6 percent of the vote while Branstad cruised to his 4th term with a 15.2 point victory.

Overall, 25 women have been elected governor across twenty states in U.S. history, while another six have served as governor or acting governor without being elected to the office. Two current female governors (Linda Lingle of Hawaii and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan) are term-limited in 2010.

Women Governors (or Acting Governors) By State

State
Governors
Total
Elected
Alabama
Lureen Wallace
1
1
Alaska
Sarah Palin
1
1
Arizona
Rose Perica Mofford*, Jane Dee Hull, Janet Napolitano, Jan Brewer*
4
2
Arkansas
---
0
0
California
---
0
0
Colorado
---
0
0
Connecticut
Ella Grasso, Jodi Rell
2
2
Delaware
Ruth Ann Minner
1
1
Florida
---
0
0
Georgia
---
0
0
Hawaii
Linda Lingle
1
1
Idaho
---
0
0
Illinois
---
0
0
Indiana
---
0
0
Iowa
---
0
0
Kansas
Joan Finney, Kathleen Sebelius
2
2
Kentucky
Martha Layne Collins
1
1
Louisiana
Kathleen Blanco
1
1
Maine
---
0
0
Maryland
---
0
0
Massachusetts
Jane Swift*
1
0
Michigan
Jennifer Granholm
1
1
Minnesota
---
0
0
Mississippi
---
0
0
Missouri
---
0
0
Montana
Judy Martz
1
1
Nebraska
Kay Orr
1
1
Nevada
---
0
0
New Hampshire
Vesta Roy*, Jeanne Shaheen
2
1
New Jersey
Christine Todd Whitman
1
1
New Mexico
---
0
0
New York
---
0
0
North Carolina
Beverly Perdue
1
1
North Dakota
---
0
0
Ohio
Nancy Hollister*
1
0
Oklahoma
---
0
0
Oregon
Barbara Roberts
1
1
Pennsylvania
---
0
0
Rhode Island
---
0
0
South Carolina
---
0
0
South Dakota
---
0
0
Tennessee
---
0
0
Texas
Miriam Ferguson, Ann Richards
2
2
Utah
Olene Smith Walker*
1
0
Vermont
Madeleine M. Kunin
1
1
Virginia
---
0
0
Washington
Dixy Lee Ray,Christine Gregoire
2
2
West Virginia
---
0
0
Wisconsin
---
0
0
Wyoming
Nellie Tayloe Ross
1
1
Total
 
31
25
* Was never elected to the office of Governor.

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Previous post: Joe Wilson Received Nearly Twice the Contributions Per Capita from McCain States Over Obama States in Q3 2009
Next post: Pathway to the Governor's Mansion in Minnesota, Part III: Ethnic Heritage

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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