Statewide Elective Executive Office

Governor

  • As a result of the 2022 election, the number of women serving as governor marks a new high of 12 (8D, 4R), with women holding 24% of all seats in 2023.
  • Three states elected their first woman governor in 2022: Arkansas (Sarah Huckabee Sanders [R]), Massachusetts (Maura Healey [D]), and New York (Kathy Hochul [D]). Two of those states – Massachusetts and New York – have previously had a woman serve as governor through appointment/ascension. There remain 18 states that have never had a woman governor.
  • Governors Maura Healey (D-MA) and Tina Kotek (D-OR) became the first openly-lesbian women to serve as governor as a result of the 2022 election.
  • For the first time, women serve simultaneously as governor and lieutenant governor. In Arkansas, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Lieutenant Governor Leslie Rutledge, both Republicans, were elected separately. In Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, both Democrats, were elected as a ticket.
  • Four (3D, 1R) non-incumbent women won gubernatorial elections in 2022, marking the second-highest number of non-incumbent women elected governor in U.S. history (tied with 2002). The only incumbent governor not returning in 2023 – Governor Kate Brown (D-OR) – was term-limited. She was succeeded by another woman, Governor Tina Kotek (D-OR).
  • There were five woman v. woman general election gubernatorial contests in 2022, more than the total number of woman v. woman gubernatorial contests in all of U.S. history prior to the 2022 election and more than twice the previous high for woman v. woman gubernatorial contests in a single election (2).
  • Of the 12 (8D, 4R) women governors serving in 2023, all but one is white. No Black, Middle Eastern/North African, or Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian women have ever served as governor.
  • A record number of women filed as candidates (69 [32D, 37R]) and were general election nominees (25 [16D, 9R]) for governor in the 2022 election. Both Democratic and Republican women saw notable gains as gubernatorial nominees from 2018 to 2022 while the number of Democratic and Republican men nominees declined across cycles.

As a result of the 2022 election, the number of women serving as governor marks a new high of 12 (8D, 4R), with women holding 24% of all seats in 2023. To date, 49 (30D, 19R) women have served as governors in 32 states.

The number of women governors increased by three (from 9 to 12) from Election Day 2022 to January 2023; the number of Democratic women governors increased by two (from 6 to 8) and the number of Republican women governors increased by one (from 3 to 4). The net gain in women governors as a result of election 2022 (+3) matches the net gain as a result of election 2018, the last major gubernatorial election, but the outcome of election 2022 is distinct because it marked a new record high for women’s gubernatorial representation.

Both Democratic and Republican women have increased their share of governorships within their parties as a result of the 2022 election. As of January 2023, women are 15.4% of Republican and 33.3% of Democratic governors. As of Election Day 2022, women were 10.7% of Republican and 27.3% of Democratic governors.

There were 36 gubernatorial offices up for election in 2022. A record number – 69 (32D, 37R) – of women filed as candidates for governor in the 2022 election, up from the previous high of 61 set in 2018.1 Across parties, the increase in women’s gubernatorial candidacies was significantly smaller from 2018 to 2022 (+13.1%) than it was between 2014 and 2018 (+103.3%). The partisan differences evident in congressional candidacies persisted in gubernatorial contests; Republican women saw a notable (+85%) jump in gubernatorial candidacies from 2018 to 2022 while Democratic women’s gubernatorial candidacies declined (-22%) across cycles.

Partisan differences were less disparate at the nominee stage. A record number – 25 (16D, 9R) – of women were nominees for governor in 2022, with both Democratic and Republican women nominees reaching achieving new highs. The number of women gubernatorial nominees increased by nine (+56.3%) between 2018 and 2022, with Republican women nominees up by five (+125%) and Democratic women nominees up by four (+33.3%) from 2018 to 2022.

Women represented a larger proportion of the gubernatorial candidate pool in 2022 than they did in 2018, with men seeing a slight decline in gubernatorial candidacies last year. Consistent with U.S. House candidacies, both Democratic men (-33.9%) and women (-22%) saw a decline in gubernatorial candidacies from 2018 to 2022, while both Republican men (+20.2%) and women (+85%) increased candidacies across cycles.

However, unlike in the U.S. House, both Democratic and Republican women saw notable gains as gubernatorial nominees from 2018 to 2022 while the number of Democratic and Republican men nominees declined across cycles. This gendered story – whereby women increased their share of gubernatorial nominations from 2018 to 2022 – stands apart from the gendered trend in U.S. House nominations, where men saw a rise and women saw a drop as nominees.

Across parties, women fell short of parity with men as gubernatorial candidates, nominees, and winners in 2022. Women were 23.5% of candidates who filed to run for governor and were 34.2% of all nominees. Women were 33.3% of gubernatorial winners. Republican women made up a smaller proportion of their party’s candidates, nominees, and winners for governor than did Democratic women in 2022. In 2022, women were 29.6% of Democratic and 19.9% of Republican candidates. The party disparity grew by the nomination stage, where women were 44.4% of Democratic and 24.3% of Republican nominees.

There were five woman v. woman general election gubernatorial contests in 2022, more than the total number of woman v. woman gubernatorial contests in all of U.S. history prior to the 2022 election combined and more than twice the previous high for woman v. woman gubernatorial contests in a single election (2). These included two open-seat contests in Arizona and Oregon, as well as three contests where women incumbents were challenged by other women in Alabama, Iowa, and Michigan; in Oregon, an independent woman candidate – not included in our counts – also waged a competitive bid for governor, creating a three-way, all-woman contest.

While the number of all-woman gubernatorial contests reached a record high in 2022, they still represented just 13.9% of all general election gubernatorial contests. In contrast, the plurality of general election gubernatorial contests (44.4%) were between men only, including Alaska’s four-way, all-male gubernatorial general election.

In the 2022 election, almost half (44.4%) of all 9 (6D, 3R) non-incumbent winners of gubernatorial offices were women, nearing gender parity; in fact, women were exactly 50% of Democratic and 33.3% of Republican non-incumbent gubernatorial winners. Women were 25% of the 20 (11D, 9R) non-incumbents elected governor in election 2018, including 36.4% of Democratic and 11.1% of Republican non-incumbent winners.

Four (3D, 1R) non-incumbent women won gubernatorial elections in 2022, marking the second-highest number of non-incumbent women elected governor in U.S. history (tied with 2002); the current record is 5 (4D, 1R), set in 2018. They include:

  • Maura Healey (D-MA), who is the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts and one of the first openly-lesbian woman governors in the U.S. (with Tina Kotek).2 Prior to serving as governor, Healey was the attorney general of Massachusetts.
  • Katie Hobbs (D-AZ), who is the fifth woman governor of Arizona. Prior to serving as governor, Hobbs was secretary of state of Arizona. Arizona is the only state to have had five woman governors.
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR), who is the first woman governor of Arkansas and the only newly-elected Republican woman governor in 2023. She is also the first daughter of a former governor to fill the position formerly held by her father (Mike Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007). Prior to serving as governor, Huckabee Sanders served as White House press secretary to President Donald Trump.
  • Tina Kotek (D-OR), who is the third woman governor of Oregon and one of the first openly-lesbian woman governors in the U.S. (with Maura Healey). Prior to serving as governor, Kotek served as speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

Non-incumbent women nominees for governor won at slightly higher rates than non-incumbent men in the 2022 election, overall and among both Democratic and Republican nominees.

All 8 (5D, 3R) incumbent women governors up for re-election in 2022 were successful; the only incumbent governor not returning in 2023 – Governor Kate Brown (D-OR) – was term-limited. She was succeeded by another woman, Governor Tina Kotek (D-OR).

Racial/Ethnic Diversity

Of the 12 (8D, 4R) women governors serving in 2023, all but one is white; Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) is one of just two (1D, 1R) Latina/Hispanic women that have ever served as governor. Of the 49 (30D, 19R) women who have ever served as governors, 46 (29D, 17R) are white, 2 (1D, 1R) are Latina/Hispanic, and 1 (1R) is Asian American. The first Latina/Hispanic and Asian American women governors – Susana Martinez (R-NM) and Nikki Haley (R-SC) – were elected in 2010. No Black, Middle Eastern/North African, or Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian women have ever served as governor.

A record number of Black (12), Latina/Hispanic (6), Asian American/Pacific Islander (5), and white (49) women were candidates for governor in 2022. A record number of Black (3) and white (21) women were gubernatorial nominees, while the number of Latina/Hispanic (1) and Asian American/Pacific Islander (0) nominees fell below previous highs. While 4 (1D, 3R) Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian women filed to run for governor in 2022, none won nominations. No Middle Eastern/North African women ran for governor in 2022.

The 2022 election also marked record highs for Black (11), Latina/Hispanic (4), and Asian American/Pacific Islander (3) women gubernatorial candidates in the Democratic Party, and white women gubernatorial candidates (33) in the Republican party. All of the Republican women who advanced to general election gubernatorial contests were white, marking a record high for that group (9). Among Democrats, a record number of Black (3) and white (12) women were general election nominees for governor.

Differences by State

Three states elected their first woman governor in 2022: Arkansas, Massachusetts, and New York. As two of those states – Massachusetts and New York – have previously had a woman serve as governor through appointment/ascension, this brings the number of states that have never had a woman governor down to 18.

For the first time, women serve simultaneously as governor and lieutenant governor. In Arkansas, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Lieutenant Governor Leslie Rutledge, both Republicans, were elected separately. In Massachusetts, Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, both Democrats, were elected as a ticket.3

Statewide Elective Executive Offices (including Governor)

  • As a result of the 2022 election, 94 (52D, 40R, 2NP) women serve in statewide elective executive office, including as governors, holding 30.3% of all offices in 2023. This falls below the current record of 98 women statewide elective executives, set briefly between December 5, 2022 and January 1, 2023.  
  • Twenty-eight (17D, 10R, 1NP) non-incumbent women won statewide executive elections in 2022. They represent just over one-third (35.4%) of all non-incumbent winners of statewide elective executive offices; women were 51.5% of Democratic and 22.2% of Republican non-incumbent winners.
  • Five (4D, 1R) incumbent women statewide executives up for re-election in 2022 were defeated, including 2 (1D, 1R) in primary and 3 (3D) in general election contests.
  • Another 25 (14D, 10R, 1NP) incumbent women statewide executives serving on Election Day 2022 did not return in 2023 due to retirement, running for other offices, term limits, or defeat at their party convention.
  • A record number of women filed as candidates (284 [154D, 127R, 3NP]) and were general election nominees (144 [90D, 52R, 2NP]) for statewide elective executive office in the 2022 election. Both Democratic and Republican women saw increases in statewide executive candidates and nominees since election 2018, the last comparable election cycle.
  • The underrepresentation of women of color as both candidates and officeholders has been historically stark at the statewide executive level. With some notable exceptions, that trend persisted in the 2022 election. Of the 94 (52D, 40R, 2NP) women serving as statewide elective executives in 2023, 4 (3D, 1R) are Asian American/Pacific Islander, 10 (9D, 1R) are Black, 8 (6D, 2R) are Latina/Hispanic, 1 (1D) is Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian, and 72 (34D, 36R, 2NP) are white. Among these officeholders, Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller (D) became the first Asian American woman elected to statewide executive office in Maryland and Attorney General Andrea Campbell (D) became the first Black woman elected to statewide executive office in Massachusetts.

In addition to 50 governorships, there are 260 other statewide elective executive offices nationwide. Of these 310 total statewide elective executive offices, 209 positions were in contention in the 2022 election.4 As a result of the 2022 election, 94 (52D, 40R, 2NP) women serve as statewide elective executives, holding 30.3% of all offices in 2023. This falls below the current record of 98 women statewide elective executives, set briefly between December 5, 2022 and January 1, 2023.  

The number of women statewide elective executives decreased by one (from 95 to 94) from Election Day 2022 to January 2023. The number of Democratic (52) and nonpartisan (2) women statewide elective executives stayed the same and the number of Republican women statewide elective executives decreased by one (from 41 to 40) from Election Day 2022 to January 2023. The stasis in women’s statewide elective executive representation as a result of election 2022 stands in contrast to the net gain of 15 seats for women as a result of election 2018, the last major statewide executive election year.

A record number of women – 284 (154D, 127R, 3NP) – filed as candidates for statewide elective executive offices in the 2022 election, up from the previous high of 249 set in 2018.5 Among all women, the increase in women’s statewide executive candidacies was significantly smaller from 2018 to 2022 (+14.1%) than it was between 2014 and 2018 (+43.9%). Both Republican (+28.3%) and Democratic (+4.1%) women saw an increase in statewide executive candidacies from 2018 to 2022, though the jump was larger for Republican women.

Partisan differences were smaller at the nominee stage. A record number of women – 144 (90D, 52R, 2NP) – were nominees for statewide elective executive offices in 2022, with both Democratic and Republican women nominees reaching achieving new highs. The number of women statewide executive nominees increased by 14 (+10.8%) between 2018 and 2022, with Republican women nominees up by six (+13%) and Democratic women nominees up by seven (+8.4%) from 2018 to 2022.

Women represented a larger proportion of the statewide executive candidate pool in 2022 than they did in 2018. Consistent with other levels of office, Republican women (+28.3%) and men (+21%) increased candidacies from 2018 to 2022, while Democratic candidacies were down overall across cycles; among Democrats, men were responsible for the entirety of the drop in candidacies from 2018 to 2022.

Consistent with the patterns among gubernatorial nominees, both Democratic and Republican women saw gains as statewide executive nominees from 2018 to 2022 while the number of Democratic and Republican men nominees declined across cycles.

Across parties, women fell short of parity with men as statewide executive candidates, nominees, and winners in 2022. Women were 30.1% of candidates who filed to run for statewide elective executive office and were 37% of all nominees. Women were 32.4% of statewide executive winners in 2022. Republican women made up a smaller proportion of their party’s candidates, nominees, and winners for statewide executive offices than did Democratic women in 2022. In 2022, women were 41.1% of Democratic and 22.9% of Republican candidates. The party disparity grew by the nomination stage, where women were 49.7% of Democratic and 25.5% of Republican nominees.

Twenty-eight (17D, 10R, 1NP) non-incumbent women won statewide executive elections in 2022. They represent just over one-third (35.4%) of all non-incumbent winners of statewide elective executive offices; women were 51.5% of Democratic and 22.2% of Republican non-incumbent winners. This is on par with women’s representation – overall and across parties – among statewide elective executive candidates in election 2018.

Non-incumbent women nominees for statewide elective executive office won at slightly lower rates than non-incumbent men in the 2022 election, with the success gap larger among Republicans.

Five (4D, 1R) incumbent women statewide executives up for re-election in 2022 were defeated, including 2 (1D, 1R) in primary and 3 (3D) in general election contests. This count includes Delaware State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness (D), who was defeated in the Democratic primary and then resigned from office on October 19, 2022. Another 25 (14D, 10R, 1NP) incumbent women statewide executives serving on Election Day 2022 did not return in 2023 due to retirement, running for other offices, term limits, or defeat at their party convention. Because these departures exceeded the count of non-incumbent winners in 2022, the overall number of women statewide elective executives declined from Election Day 2022 to January 2023.

Racial/Ethnic Diversity

The underrepresentation of women of color as both candidates and officeholders has been historically stark at the statewide executive level. Of the 604 women who have served as statewide elective executives to date, 536 – or 88.9% of all officeholders – are white, 12 are Asian American/Pacific Islander, 23 are Black, 29 are Latina/Hispanic, 4 are Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian, and 1 identified as multiracial alone.6 No self-identified Middle Eastern/North African women have served in statewide elective executive office to date, based on our knowledge.7

Of the 94 (52D, 40R, 2NP) women serving as statewide elective executives in 2023, 4 (3D, 1R) are Asian American/Pacific Islander, 10 (9D, 1R) are Black, 8 (6D, 2R) are Latina/Hispanic, 1 (1D) is Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian, and 72 (34D, 36R, 2NP) are white.8 These counts include 1 (1D) woman – Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos (D) – who identifies as Afro-Latina and is included in counts for Black and Latina/Hispanic women officeholders. This marks a record high for the number of Asian American/Pacific Islander (4) and Black (10) women statewide elective executive officeholders.

A record number of Black (59), Latina/Hispanic (24), Asian American/Pacific Islander (14), and white (183) women were candidates for statewide elective executive office in 2022. A record number of Black (31) and white (97) women were statewide elective executive nominees, while the number of Latina/Hispanic (10) and Asian American/Pacific Islander (5) women nominees fell below previous highs. Six (3D, 3R) Native American/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian women filed to run for statewide elective executive office in 2022 and 2 (2D) were nominees. Two (1D, 1R) Middle Eastern/North African women ran for statewide elective executive office in 2022 and 1 (1R) was a nominee.

The 2022 election also marked record highs for Black (50), Latina/Hispanic (18), and Asian American/Pacific Islander (11) women statewide executive candidates in the Democratic Party, and Black (8) and white (107) women statewide executive candidates in the Republican party. Among Democrats, a record number of Black (27), Latina/Hispanic (8), and Asian American/Pacific Islander (4) women were statewide executive nominees in the general election. Only Black women reached a record level (4) of statewide executive nominations among Republicans.

Differences by State

The number of women statewide elective executives went up in ten states, went down in nine states, and stayed the same in 31 states as a result of the 2022 election. Democratic women gained statewide elective executive offices in five states and lost seats in six states. Republican women gained statewide elective offices in five states and lost seats in five states.

Eight states have no women representing them in statewide elective executive office: Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.9 All eight states have previously had women in statewide elective executive offices.

In addition to the milestones achieved by newly-elected governors, these newly-elected women have made history in statewide elective executive offices:

  • Attorney General Andrea Campbell (D) is the first Black woman elected to statewide executive office in Massachusetts.
  • Attorney General Charity Clark (D) is the first woman elected attorney general in Vermont. Former Attorney General Susanne Young (R), the first woman to hold the office, was appointed by Governor Scott (R) in July 2022 to fill a vacancy. She did not run for a full term.
  • Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D) is the first woman to serve as comptroller in Maryland.
  • Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller (D) is the first Asian American woman elected to statewide executive office in Maryland.
  • State Treasurer Lara Montoya (D) is the first woman to serve as treasurer in New Mexico.
  • State Auditor Lydia York (D) is the first Black woman to be state auditor and the second Black woman to be elected to statewide executive office in Delaware.

Looking Ahead

The 2022 election marks an important point of progress for women at the gubernatorial level. Not only do a record number of women serve as governors as a result of election 2022, but women made history at the candidacy and nomination stages. They ran and won in record numbers and moved closer to normalizing all-women gubernatorial contests. The growth of women in the pool of gubernatorial candidates, nominees, and winners can be credited, in part, to the growth of women’s representation across levels of office. For example, three of the four new women governors previously served in high-level elective office prior to launching their gubernatorial bids. The success of women in the highest state executive office also matters for the future growth of women’s political leadership. In addition to the impact their representation will have on policy agendas and outcomes, these women have the opportunity to disrupt gendered norms of political leadership, especially at the executive level, and inspire other women to see themselves as potential political leaders. They are also now among the elected leaders most likely to be considered as potential presidential contenders, increasing their political capital through their statewide leadership and success.

But the success for women at the gubernatorial level in this single election cycle should not be overstated. Women still hold just 24% of all governor’s offices nationwide and 18 states have still never had a woman governor. Moreover, the dearth of racial/ethnic diversity of women governors – historically and at present – should serve as an impetus for continued efforts to promote greater representational equity among states’ top executive officeholders.

That dearth of racial/ethnic diversity among women officeholders persists across all statewide elective executive women, and this underrepresentation has serious implications for policy and politics.9 Statewide elective executive officeholders are among some of the most powerful political leaders in the U.S., responsible for key functions of government — from the execution and oversight of elections to upholding the law and managing states’ treasuries. As we anticipate further delegation of key policy decisions to the states, the power of statewide executive will continue to grow. While these offices often receive less attention in discussions of women’s political representation, they should be more central to efforts to promote women’s political power, including efforts to diversify the women who both run for and win high-level political offices.

Footnotes

  1. Throughout this report, filed candidates refer to candidates who filed and appeared on primary ballots as well as any candidates who were added to general election ballots to fill vacancies. Candidates who withdrew before any votes were cast and who did not appear on primary ballots are not included. Nominees refer to those candidates who appeared on general election ballots.
  2. Prior to Healey, Jane Swift (R-MA) served as acting Governor of Massachusetts from April 2001 to January 2003. As lieutenant governor, she ascended to the governorship upon the resignation of the governor.
  3. While women have never served simultaneously as governor and lieutenant governor, there have been several instances historically where women served as both governor and in a position next in line for succession that was not lieutenant governor.
  4. This includes two seats on Georgia’s Public Service Commission, which have not been selected due to pending litigation. While candidates for these seats are included in our total candidate counts, the primary winners are not included in our counts of nominees because the general election for these positions was cancelled until the litigation is resolved.
  5. Throughout this report, filed candidates refer to candidates who filed and appeared on primary ballots as well as any candidates who were added to general election ballots to fill vacancies. Candidates who withdrew before any votes were cast and who did not appear on primary ballots are not included. Nominees refer to those candidates who appeared on general election ballots.
  6. Women who identify with more than one race/ethnicity are included in counts for each group. However, all white women who have served in statewide elective executive office are white alone. CAWP added Alaska Native as a category of self-identification in our data collection starting in 2019 and Native Hawaiian as a category for self-identification in our data collecting starting in 2021, limiting our ability to report historical information about these specific groups of women. Additionally, CAWP’s collection of officeholders’ racial/ethnic self-identification began within the past 30 years. CAWP identification for officeholders prior to this time period is made based on public records and materials.
  7. CAWP began including MENA as category in 2018. Prior to this, we are reliant on historical records and public identification by women officeholders.
  8. Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll (D) is counted as white in these data, though she also identifies as West Indian/Caribbean.
  9. Of these states with no women in statewide elective executive office as of January 2023, two – New Hampshire and Tennessee – have just one statewide elective executive office: governor.
  10. Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2015. “Why Not a Woman of Color? The Candidacies of U.S. Women of Color for Statewide Executive Office.” In Oxford Handbook Topics in Politics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.