Politics

These 25 Female Governor Candidates Won Primaries & Could Make History

Without federal abortion protection, governors are now the last line of defense.

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When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, jurisdiction over abortion access was punted to state governments, making this year’s gubernatorial elections more important than ever since governors can be the medical procedure’s last line of defense. Already, 13 states have nearly ceased all abortion services — and, as a reminder, the vast majority of Americans think abortions should be legal in some or all cases.

In November, 36 states will elect governors. Twenty-five women have won their Republican or Democrat primary elections for the right to compete in those gubernatorial races, topping 2018’s record of 16. In 2018, nine of those 16 were elected governor, which is the current record for most woman governors serving at once. If current projections prove true, this year’s candidates would boost that number and diversify the position.

Every woman governor in U.S. history has been white or Latina. The current race is still overwhelmingly white, but candidates Stacey Abrams of Georgia, Deidre DeJear of Iowa, and Yolanda Flowers of Alabama could become the first Black women elected to the role. And we’ve only seen one LGBTQ+ woman — Kate Brown of Oregon, who identifies as bisexual — elected governor. That’s poised to change this year, with three LGBTQ+-identifying women on the ballot. Two of them, Oregon’s Tina Kotek and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey, could make history as the nation’s first lesbian governors.

Below, we’ve included key information about the 25 women candidates and their chances of winning.

Courtesy of the Office of Governor Kay Ivey

Alabama, Republican

Ivey is running for her second term as governor of Alabama, a position she assumed in 2017 after the resignation of Gov. Robert J. Bentley. Her legislative record includes criminalizing gender-affirming health care for minors, signing the Human Life Protection Act — which outlawed abortion in Alabama after the overturn of Roe v. Wade — and signing a law that allows Alabamians to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Ivey is widely expected to be reelected in the conservative state.

Alabama, Democrat

Flowers, a former substitute teacher, is Alabama’s first Black major-party nominee for governor. Her priorities include desegregating and increasing funding to public schools, improving health care for the working class, and decreasing prison populations through “litigation, advocacy, and equity.” The pro-choice candidate is currently not expected to beat the Republican incumbent, Gov. Ivey (above).

Brandon Bell/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Arizona, Republican

Before running for governor, Lake worked as a Phoenix news anchor for 27 years. She’s made increased security at the U.S.-Mexico border a hallmark of her campaign, is against vaccine mandates, and is anti-abortion. (In a statement earlier this year, she said she “supports exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.”) She’s also been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. While Republicans control most of Arizona’s state government, Politico believes this election — between Lake and Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs (below) — could go either way.

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Arizona, Democrat

Hobbs, who’s running against Kari Lake (above), has served as Arizona’s secretary of state since 2019, after six years as an Arizona state representative and five years as the state Senate’s minority leader. She supports comprehensive immigration reform, has a clean energy plan to conserve the state’s water supply, and plans to increase access to reproductive care while vetoing restrictions from the state’s Legislature. She hopes to create a more diverse state government by prioritizing underrepresented candidates at all levels.

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Arkansas, Republican

You likely recognize Sanders’ name from her work as White House press secretary during Trump’s presidency. In a video outlining her campaign, she says she’ll advocate for residents’ Second Amendment rights, lower state income taxes, and fight against abortion access and the Green New Deal. This is her first time running for elected office, and outlets like Politico and FiveThirtyEight expect her to win.

Colorado, Republican

Ganahl, the founder of the world’s largest pet care franchise, is running against an incumbent Democrat, Gov. Jared Polis. She hopes to end Colorado’s status as an official immigrant sanctuary state and increase resources for law enforcement. She is anti-abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the pregnant person, and says she’ll do “everything in her power to end late-term abortion.” Many outlets, such as The Denver Post, have reported that Ganahl is likely to lose.

Megan Varner/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Georgia, Democrat

Abrams, who’d be the country’s first Black female governor if elected, served in the Georgia House of Representatives for 10 years and as the state’s Senate minority leader for six years. She’s running against a Republican incumbent, Gov. Brian Kemp, in a rematch from the 2018 election, which she lost by 54,723 votes. Her priorities include increasing funding for public education, repealing pro-gun bills like the 2014 “Guns Everywhere” law, and deprioritizing abortion-related prosecutions. Politico considers this closely watched race to be a toss-up.

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Iowa, Republican

Reynolds has served as Iowa’s governor since 2017, after Gov. Terry Branstad stepped down to become the U.S. ambassador to China. She was serving as lieutenant governor at the time. Since then, she’s approved the state’s largest tax cut in history, created its Children’s Mental Health System, and enacted workforce policy initiatives to ensure “70% of Iowans achieve training or education beyond high school by 2025.” She is against abortion and hopes to enforce Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law, which was blocked by a court in 2019. Many outlets, such as Politico, expect her to win.

Courtesy of DeJearForIowa.com

Iowa, Democrat

If DeJear can beat the incumbent, Gov. Reynolds, she would become the nation’s first Black female governor. (As noted above, she’s not expected to win.) DeJear is the founder of Caleo Enterprises, which provides affordable marketing tools and business strategies to budding entrepreneurs. She’s advocated for immediate increases to public school funding, investments in affordable child care, increasing the age for sales of assault rifles to 21, and cementing the right to abortion in state legislation.

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Kansas, Democrat

Since Kelly began serving as governor of Kansas in 2019, the self-proclaimed moderate has overseen development of 425 new infrastructure projects, affirmed trans athletes’ rights to play on the school sports teams of their choice, and vetoed a bill allowing parents to review school curriculums. She plans to ensure abortion remains legal in Kansas, and while she supports the Second Amendment, she advocates for required background checks on all gun sales. Current polling shows a tight race between Kelly and Republican candidate Derek Schmidt. Politico considers the race a toss-up.

Portland Press Herald/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

Maine, Democrat

Since Mills was elected to be Maine’s first woman governor in 2018, she’s signed laws to improve the relationship between the state and Indigenous tribes, increased funding to substance use disorder service providers, and expanded access to abortion in Maine. She also set a goal of using 100% renewable energy in the state by 2050. Both FiveThirtyEight and Politico report she’s favored to win.

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Massachusetts, Democrat

In 2015, Healey became the first gay attorney general in the country, a position she currently holds. As governor, her priorities would include preserving abortion rights, police reform, social services for undocumented immigrants, and a multi-step plan to fight climate change. If she wins in November, which FiveThirtyEight currently finds “very likely,” she will be the country’s first lesbian governor.

Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Michigan, Republican

Before launching her gubernatorial campaign, Dixon founded Lumen News, a conservative morning news program for grade-school students. The Michigan Republican, who’s been endorsed by President Donald Trump, has run a campaign focused on supporting the Second Amendment, blocking mask mandates in schools, and a no-exceptions abortion ban. According to Politico, Michigan’s race is leaning Democrat, but an August 2022 poll by The Trafalgar Group shows Dixon trailing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by just 4%.

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Michigan, Democrat

Serving as Michigan’s governor since 2019, Whitmer has enforced the nation’s strictest regulations around lead and copper in drinking water, increased funding for fixing roads, and supported criminal justice reform through bills like Raise the Age, which ensures anyone under 18 is treated as a minor in juvenile court. The incumbent, who’s facing Republican candidate Tudor Dixon (above), is “fighting like hell” to protect reproductive rights.

Courtesy of the Nebraska State Legislature

Nebraska, Democrat

Blood, who’s served as a state senator since 2016, is running for governor on issues such as transparency around property taxes, improving public safety through natural-disaster plans and resources for health care, and increasing funding for public education. She’s called for federal action on gun control and has described herself as “pro-life” but supported filibustering a trigger bill that would’ve banned abortions in Nebrasaka. Both FiveThirtyEight and Politico, which calls Nebraska’s voter base “solid Republican,” predict the open seat will be won by Republican candidate Jim Pillen.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

New Mexico, Democrat

Serving as governor since 2019, Lujan Grisham has prioritized investments in New Mexico’s public education system and clean energy resources. In 2021, she repealed the state’s criminal abortion statute, and this year, she put $10 million toward a new abortion clinic near the Texas border. Her other priorities include investing in law enforcement and attracting new industries to the state by legalizing cannabis and increasing funding for vocational training. The race could be close, but Politico projects New Mexico voters will reelect her.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

New York, Democrat

Hochul became New York’s governor in August 2021 when Andrew Cuomo resigned. (She’d been his lieutenant governor since 2014.) She’s championed policies like stricter background checks for those seeking concealed carry pistol permits, making New York a “safe harbor” for those seeking abortion care, and the creation of the nation’s largest green hydrogen plant. She plans to address homelessness with a $25 billion, five-year affordable housing plan. While FiveThirtyEight says Hochul is “very likely” to win, a September poll from the Trafalgar Group shows Republican candidate Lee Zeldin only 4 points behind.

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Ohio, Democrat

Whaley, who’s running against incumbent Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, served as mayor of Dayton from 2014 to 2022, where she cut opioid overdoses in half and banned LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. Her goals include protecting abortion rights, requiring universal background checks for gun owners, and banning discrimination in housing, employment, and public spaces based on sexuality or gender identity. Politico projects DeWine will likely win reelection.

Courtesy of Joy Hofmeister

Oklahoma, Democrat

Since 2015, Hofmeister has acted as Oklahoma’s superintendent of public instruction. She switched parties to run against a Republican incumbent, Gov. Kevin Stitt, and has built her campaign on reversing the state’s abortion ban (she’s “personally pro-life”), building relationships with tribal nations’ governments, and protecting the Second Amendment while implementing background checks on gun sales. Politico reports Stitt is nearly certain to win reelection.

Courtesy of Christine Drazan

Oregon, Republican

Drazan, who served in Oregon’s House of Representatives from 2019 to January 2022, is anti-abortion and supports banning abortions in the third trimester, but says she would “follow existing law” on reproductive care. Her plans for the state include supporting charter and magnet schools, vetoing increased farming regulations, and repealing Measure 110, which decriminalized opioid use. Politico reports that her challenger, Tina Kotek (below), is “slightly favored” to win.

Courtesy of Tina for Oregon

Oregon, Democrat

Kotek served as speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives from 2013 to 2022, during which time the chamber invested $50 million in renewable energy and passed the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which put the right to affordable care (including abortions) into state law. As governor, she’d work to increase the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, ensure Oregon’s ability to provide reproductive care to out-of-state residents, and create a workforce development pipeline for underserved communities. If she beats Christine Drazan (above), she’d become the country’s first lesbian governor.

Courtesy of Ashley Kalus

Rhode Island, Republican

The Rhode Island businesswoman has focused her campaign on the economy and education. She hopes to strengthen the state’s education system and increase technical training. She hasn’t spent much airtime talking about abortion, as she believes the Supreme Court decision won’t impact Rhode Islanders. In a June 2022 tweet, she said, “Abortion was codified into state law in 2019, and that will not change.” PBS considers her an “underdog” as she faces an incumbent Democrat, Gov. Daniel McKee.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images News/Getty Images

South Dakota, Republican

Since being elected as South Dakota’s first female governor in 2018, Noem has merged the state’s agriculture and environment departments, approved up to $600 million in correctional facility renovations, and eliminated fees for concealed gun permits. She’s also defended the state’s abortion trigger law, which bans the procedure with exceptions when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. FiveThirtyEight reports Noem is “very likely” to win reelection.

Courtesy of Brenda Siegel for Governor

Vermont, Democrat

Siegel is an anti-poverty activist running against incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott. As governor, she’d work to invest in renewable energy, ban assault rifles, and promote harm reduction-based addiction treatment. She is pro-choice and supports changing Vermont’s extradition laws to protect people who support abortion access, as well as passing mandatory paid family and medical leave for those who carry a pregnancy to term. Many outlets, including the local WCAX television station, think Scott will win reelection.

Courtesy of Theresa Livingston

Wyoming, Democrat

Livingston, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is running against incumbent Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. She previously worked for the Bureau of Land Management, and has been a member of the disaster-response nonprofit Team Rubicon since 2015. Many of her goals are health-focused, such as expanding Medicaid and supporting “women’s health care,” according to the Star Valley Independent. The Associated Press reports Gov. Gordon has a “clear path to reelection.”

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