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American politicians are meant to represent the entire public, but the majority come from a group that represents less than a third of Americans: white men.
Take the 50 US state governors in office. Forty-seven are white with no Latino heritage and 41 are male, according to Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.
But 2022 promises to be a historic year.
“We have a record number of women running for governor this cycle,” said Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University’s Center for Women and Politics.
The states are also set to elect a black governor for only the third time in the nation’s history, and the first openly lesbian governor.
Successful applicants who aren’t white or male “really disrupt a lot of stereotypes and images of what it means to be a high-level leader,” Walsh says, and that can lay the groundwork for even more diverse representation in positions. superiors. For example, the United States has never had a female president, she said.
Here are six races where one, or both, gubernatorial candidates would be a “first,” either in their state or nationally, if elected. While not an exhaustive list, these are races where such historical contenders are favored to win or are in a tight race.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is on the ballot in Arkansas. If elected, she would be the state’s first female governor. Polling averages show Sanders, a Republican, with a double-digit lead over her opponent, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Although unlikely to be elected in 2022, Democratic candidate Chris Jones, a former nonprofit executive who attended MIT, would be the first black governor to represent the Natural State.
No state has ever elected a black woman as governor. In Georgia, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is running to oust incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican. A voting rights advocate and former state legislator, Abrams lobbied to increase Democratic turnout in Georgia. Those efforts have been credited with helping President Joe Biden win the state — and the White House — in 2020.
In her first run against Kemp in 2018, Abrams came within two percentage points of winning the governorship. However, polls currently show the Republican-leaning rematch.
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In solidly blue Maryland, Democratic candidate Wes Moore would be the first black governor in state history. Downvoting also shows more potential first, as NPR previously reported.
Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Aruna Miller would be the first Asian American to hold a statewide office in the Free State. In the race for state attorney general, U.S. Representative Anthony Brown could be the first African American elected to the position. State Delegate Brooke Lierman introduces herself as Maryland’s first female comptroller. All are Democrats.
If Abrams loses in Georgia, Moore could be the only black governor in the United States and the third African-American governor ever elected in the country.
State Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, is running to fill a seat vacated by Republican incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker. If elected, Healey would be the state’s first elected female governor. Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift served as Governor from 2001 to 2003 after Governor Paul Cellucci accepted a position as United States Ambassador to Canada.
Healey, along with Tina Kotek of Oregon (below), will likely be the first openly elected lesbian governors in the United States. The Cook Political Report rates the Massachusetts race as solidly Democratic leaning.
Kathy Hochul is already New York’s first female governor. But 2022 is the first time voters could choose her for the role. A former lieutenant governor, she assumed the state’s top office after Andrew Cuomo resigned in 2021 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Hochul faces US Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican who currently represents Long Island’s 1st District.
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Tina Kotek (along with Maura Healey of Massachusetts) may be the nation’s first openly lesbian governor. However, the Oregon race is considered a toss-up between Kotek and GOP candidate Christine Drazan. The X factor is independent candidate Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat with deep-pocketed supporters. According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics, this midterm cycle has the most all-female matchups in gubernatorial races.
Oregon currently has an openly bisexual governor, Democrat Kate Brown, and Colorado elected openly gay governor Jared Polis in 2018.
If Drazan wins, she will be Oregon’s first Republican governor in 40 years. It would be its own kind of story.