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More than half of states have been governed by a woman—why not California?

By in Press Enterprise on February 2, 2018

By CALmatters

By Ben Christopher, CALmatters

Texas has done it. So have Kansas, Alabama, Oklahoma and North and South Carolina. Arizona has done it four times.

All told, more than half of all states have had at least one female governor, and 24 have elected them.

But California? See if you can spot the pattern.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In 1990, Dianne Feinstein ran for governor against Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson. She lost, the political analystsat the time said, because of low name recognition and an “unfocused” campaign.

Four years later, Kathleen Brown (sister of Governor Jerry, daughter of Governor Pat) challenged Wilson. Despite an early lead in the polls, she flamed out in the final months—the consequence, observers said, of rising anti-immigrant sentiment, a tough national environment for Democrats, and, again, “critical miscalculations” on the campaign trail.

Flash forward to 2010 and Meg Whitman, a billionaire tech tycoon, squared off against a second round Jerry Brown. Whitman had plenty of money, but alas, she was a Republican in 21st century California who never quite “connected with voters.”

Bad campaigning, bad policies, bad timing. These are convincing explanations for why each of these women never made it to the governor’s mansion. But the fact remains that every time a woman has made it to the top of the ticket in a gubernatorial race, she has lost.

If nothing else, it’s a startling contradiction. California is supposed to be the vanguard of social change.

But at least by one metric, we’re downright retrograde. We’ve never elected a female lieutenant governor either (Mona Pasquil served for less than six months, but she was appointed). Only nine women have been elected to one of the statewide constitutional offices. Of the 120 lawmakers in the California Legislature, 26 are women, the lowest number since 1998.

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