Women set record, with six as governors
By Maureen Groppe and Derrick DePledge
Gannett News Service
Democratic Attorney General Janet Napolitano in Arizona defeated former Republican Rep. Matt Salmon in a race that became final yesterday, giving women six governor's offices next year, one more than they have now.
"It's the slow, steady progress that has been the story of women in politics," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Republicans and Democrats likely will emerge from the midterm elections with a near-even share of governor's offices. The split could have an influence on the 2004 presidential election because governors are important players in fund raising and in get-out-the-vote drives.
"It just strikes me as being an incredibly divided electorate," said Iva Deutchman, a professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. "But I don't know if voters thought they were given a real choice. I didn't hear a lot of issues being debated."
Ten women ran for governor in nine states, taking Arizona, Michigan, Kansas and Hawai'i. They lost in Alaska, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode Island.
Women currently hold five governor's offices, but three of those governors are leaving at the end of their terms.
In the House and Senate, women failed to gain any momentum, holding steady at a projected 59 seats in the House and 13 seats in the Senate.
"It was a combination of bad luck, bad weather, bad campaigning. It just wasn't there for those of us who were hoping to see more women actually elected," said Karen O'Connor, a specialist in women and politics at American University, who expressed concern that "we've really sort of reached a glass ceiling and it's becoming more like a steel wall."
With Tuesday's elections, Republicans held 25 governorships and Democrats held 24. The race in Alabama was still undecided yesterday.
Before Tuesday, Republicans held 27 governorships; Democrats, 21; and independents, two.
A slumping economy was an obvious backdrop to the midterm elections, but there was no other major national theme in the governor's races.
"I think the public was finally overwhelmed from the corruption of a one-party state," Lingle said of the Hawai'i race. "People felt that they had to make a change."