By the Numbers: Women Candidates for State Executive and State Legislative Office in 2018

 

All statewide executive and state legislative primary elections are now complete, giving us the opportunity to take stock of women's candidacies and put their successes into context. Note that our findings on primary success and nominations do not include contests that remain too close to call or Lousiana's special election for Secretary of State, which will be held as a jungle primary on November 6th. 

Governor

Women gubernatorial candidates have run for and won nominations in record numbers this year.

 

But women are still underrepresented as a proportion of all gubernatorial nominees, with significant disparities by party. 

 

While women shattered the record for gubernatorial nominees this year, there is no guarantee that they will break the record for women governors serving simultaneously – which is 9 - in 2019. 

 

Regardless of numbers of winners, the diversity among women gubernatorial candidates is notable this year. 

In addition to 3 (3D) LGBTQ nominees (Kate Brown-OR, Lupe Valdez-TX, and Christine Hallquist-VT), there is more racial and ethnic diversity in this year’s pool of women gubernatorial candidates than ever before. 5 of 16 women nominees are women of color, including 4 Democratic nominees who would be the first Democratic women of color ever elected governor in the U.S.

  • Stacey Abrams (D-GA) would also be the first Black woman governor in the U.S. With her counterparts this year.  She is also the first Black woman nominee for governor in the country.
  • Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) and Lupe Valdez (D-TX) would be first Democratic Latinas elected governor in the U.S.
  • Paulette Jordan (D-ID) is the first Native American woman nominee for governor nationwide. She would also be the first Native American woman governor, and just the second Native American woman elected to a statewide executive office in the U.S.
  • Andria Tupola (R) is the only Republican woman of color nominee and the only Asian/Pacific Islander woman on a general election gubernatorial ballot in 2018.

Of the 16 states with women gubernatorial nominees in 2018, 4 have never had a woman governor: Idaho, Georgia, Maine, and South Dakota.

In Iowa, where incumbent Kim Reynolds (R) – who was appointed last year – is on the ballot, no woman has ever been elected governor.

All Statewide Elected Executive Offices

Overall, women candidates have won nominations for statewide elected executive offices in record numbers this year, though record-breaking nominations are concentrated in select offices (governor, auditor, and insurance commissioner). 

 

More detail by specific office is available here.

But women are still underrepresented as a proportion of all statewide executive nominees, with significant disparities by party. 

 

Women of color, who currently hold just 8 (2.6%) of statewide elected executive offices, are 10% of all nominees and 30% of women nominees for statewide elected executive office this year.

 

Other milestones to monitor for women candidates for statewide elected executive offices this year include:

  • If elected, Democratic nominee for attorney general Tish James would be the first woman of color elected to statewide office in New York.
  • In Illinois and Minnesota, women of color were selected by both major-party candidates for governor as nominees for lieutenant governor. The last time that two women of color competed against each other for lieutenant governor was in 2002 in Ohio.
    • In Illinois, incumbent Republican Evelyn Sanguinetti, who is Latina, and Democrat Juliana Stratton, who is Black, are nominees for lieutenant governor.
    • In Minnesota’s gubernatorial race, both male nominees have selected Native American women as running mates: Peggy Flanagan (DFL) and Donna Bergstrom (R). Either woman would be the first woman of color elected statewide in Minnesota and the first Native American woman lieutenant governor elected nationwide.
  • Debra Call, Alaska's Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, would – if elected – be the first woman of color elected to statewide office in Alaska and just the second Native American woman elected to statewide executive office in the U.S.
  • If elected in Arizona, January Contreras - the Democratic challenger for attorney general - would become the first Latina and Kimberly Yee - the Republican nominee for state treasurer - would become the first Republican woman of color elected statewide.

State Legislative Offices

Women state legislative candidates have won nominations in record numbers this year.

 

In 34 of 46 states holding state legislative elections this year, a record number of women have been nominated. However, these milestones vary by party. 

  • 35 states have hit a new high for Democratic women nominees for the state legislature.
  • 10 states have hit a new high for Republican women nominees for the state legislature.

7 in 10 women state legislative nominees in 2018 are Democrats. 

  • 71% of women nominees for state senates are Democrats.
  • 70% of women nominees for state houses are Democrats.

Larger proportions of Democratic women than Republican women nominees across state legislative chambers are running as challengers to incumbents in November.

 

Our full election information, as well as candidate lists and historical information, is available through our Election Watch page.

 

Kelly Dittmar is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics. She has authored multiple book chapters on gender and American politics, and her book Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns (Temple University Press, in press) was published in 2015. Dittmar's research focuses on gender and American political institutions, with a particular focus on how gender informs campaigns and the impact of gender diversity among elites in policy and political decisions, priorities, and processes. Dittmar was an American Political Science Association (APSA) Congressional Fellow from 2011 to 2012. At CAWP, she manages national research projects, helps to develop and implement CAWP's research agenda, and contributes to CAWP reports, publications, and analyses. She directs CAWP's latest project, Gender Watch 2018 and works with CAWP's programs for women's public leadership. Dittmar has been an expert source and commentator for media outlets including MSNBC, NPR, PBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Dittmar earned her B.A. from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI and her Ph.D. from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.