#WomenToWatch is a series by RepresentWomen that documents rising women leaders and their stories.
Alabama holds primary runoff elections on July 17th, and Republicans will vote for their Lieutenant Governor nominee alongside a few House races. Women are few and far between in Alabama politics — Alabama receives a D in this year’s Gender Parity Index — but not so in this year’s race for governor and lieutenant governor. Kay Ivey, the Republican gubernatorial incumbent, won her primary handily and is a heavy favorite to win reelection in the deep-red state. The upcoming Republican primary runoff will decide if Twinkle Cavanaugh, the President of the Public Service Commission of Alabama and former chairwoman for the Alabama Republican Party, will appear with Ivey on the November ballot.
In the recent Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor, Cavanaugh edged out her top opponent by about six points, indicating she might be a favorite in the upcoming runoff. If Cavanaugh wins, she and Governor Ivey will almost certainly be elected come November. Alabama would become the first state in which women hold both of these offices simultaneously.
This election presents a great opportunity to see how a state house operates with two women at the helm -- a case study in women’s leadership as state executives. Political scientists have shown that “the presence of highly visible female politicians" inspires political ambition among girls and women, in addition to encouraging political participation among young men. We also know that women leaders prefer using strategies of compromise and consensus-building.
However, this research is generally based on surveys of women members of Congress and not of state executives. Though women are underrepresented in Congress, they are just as underrepresented in state executive office: currently, just six states have women governors, and 12 others have women lieutenant governors. The prospect of a two-woman team governing Alabama is exciting, as it would shine light onto how female leadership translates into positions long held by men. We are keeping a close eye on Cavanaugh’s race and this potentially historic milestone for women’s representation.