- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Ten years ago, it was the "Year of the Woman" on Capitol Hill.
This year looks like it could end up being labeled as the "Year of the Woman Governor," with 10 female candidates running among the 36 races for state governor.
Tuesday's elections could roughly double the ranks of women who are governors. There are five female governors now. Come Election Night, there could be as many as 11 female governors.
In fact, the election of a woman governor is guaranteed in Hawaii since the race pits two female candidates against each other.
"We're not surprised to find women as strong contenders for the top positions in state government," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "These candidates have built impressive careers within and outside government, with many serving in statewide offices and state legislatures. They're more than ready to lead their states, even in especially challenging times."
Women also could increase their numbers in Congress this year.
Eleven women are seeking U.S. Senate seats, including three incumbents Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat; Susan Collins, Maine Republican; and Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat.
Two women Elizabeth H. Dole, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat are running for open seats in North Carolina and New Hampshire, respectively. Mrs. Shaheen stepped down as governor of New Hampshire to run for the Senate. Six others five Democrats and one Republican are running as challengers.
A record 13 women currently serve in the U.S. Senate. The highest number of women nominated in any year to date was 11 in 1992. That year, five women, all Democrats, were elected to the Senate.
Meanwhile, 124 women are running for election in the House, including 54 incumbents. Eighteen are running for open seats and 52 running as challengers. There are now 60 women serving in the House.
Also, three women, two of whom are incumbents including D.C. Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, are running for U.S. delegate seats from the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
"Nationally this is an exciting election in terms of opportunities to move women closer to the U.S. presidency," said Mosemarie Boyd, president of the California-based American Women Presidents, a national political action committee that works toward electing women to the presidency.
"Women are within striking distance of winning historic numbers of governor's seats and two new U.S. Senate seats positions in the pipeline to the presidency," she said.
Political analysts and women's advocacy groups, however, are calling this year's gubernatorial races "critical" because the more women who win governorships, the more chances they have of becoming serious contenders for the presidency. Recently, the path to the White House has run through the statehouse, analysts said.
"Four of our last five presidents, including President Bush, were governors," Miss Walsh said. "These women are following a traditional path that could take them to historic heights."
This isn't the first time a large number of women have run for governor. In 1994, 34 women filed to run and 10 won their party primaries and were nominated. But all 10 candidates were shut out in that year's general election.
But analysts are certain that this general election will likely yield a different outcome because they argue this year's female candidates boast more experience than before.
Eight of the 10 candidates have held previous statewide elective offices, including three lieutenant governors, two attorneys general, two state treasurers and an insurance commissioner.
In Maryland, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend served as lieutenant governor for eight years under current Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
"These are seasoned people who are coming from places that really gives them attributes voters are looking for," said Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, a New York City-based nonprofit group dedicated to helping women win elected office.
"These candidates have come at a time when voters want to make sure that their governor can manage the economy and is tough on terrorism and crime," she said.
Miss Boyd agreed: "These women understand that creating jobs, growing the economy, maintaining fiscal responsibility, and attending to the family pocketbook issues are critical to maintaining the economic strength needed to win the war on terrorism."
Even if none of the current women governors or gubernatorial candidates lands on a national ticket, they are laying the groundwork for another to become president or vice president in the near future, analysts said.
"The more this country sees women in positions of real authority, the more people will get used to seeing women as political leaders," Miss Wilson said.

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