For the first time in the state's history, three women candidates will run in Oregon's 2022 Governor race.
Orgonians will vote in a three-way race dominated by women candidates; former House Speaker Tina Kotek, former House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, and the well-funded unaffiliated candidate, long-time democratic lawmaker Betsy Johnson.
Kotek, the longest-serving speaker of the Oregon House, won the Democratic nomination with 55%. Drazan, leading in a very crowded primary, won with just 24%, which, if it holds up, would be the lowest share of the Republican vote for a governor nominee in Oregon history going back at least 75 years.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, just 45 women have been governors of their states or territories. The record number of women serving simultaneously is 9.
Interactive Map by RepresentWomen. Link
Of the 45 women governors, 30 were first elected in their own right; 3 replaced their husbands, and 11 became governor by constitutional succession, six of whom subsequently won full terms.
Yes, Oregon's primaries were a resounding win for women's representation in the state and across the country, but what if we could expand that record by more than one woman elected every couple of years, or by waiting for a white male governor to step down for a woman to rise up in his place?
What if we stepped on the gas and made it easier for multiple women to run and win governor races? What if we established better norms for women to rise up through the ranks and take on leadership positions? What if we pushed our state’s officers to appoint gender balanced staff and cabinets?
See, that is the goal here. We take the win. Yes, but we must also continue to fight for better systems so more women can win more often.
It's hard enough to run in an electoral system built to deter, but losing your seat after winning is politically devastating.
In this deep dive article from the 19th's Amanda Becker, we go down to Georgia’s example.
The candidates were both rising stars in the party, having flipped their districts in recent elections; Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux did so in Georgia's 7th District in 2020 and Rep. Lucy McBath in the 6th District in 2018.
"It wasn't too long ago that Bourdeaux referred to McBath as her "sister" representing Georgia in the House, and the two women have remained largely civil in official campaign communications. But tension over McBath's decision to run in the District was evident during a primary debate earlier this month."
This partisan redistricting has scrambled Georgia's House districts and pit two rising star women in the democratic party against each other. In the end, Georgia will come out of this election short of at least one woman leader and made less representative, less democratic for it.
It might not be the devil, but partisan redistricting has certainly arrived in Georgia and it’s fiddling away with representative politics.
In the US, similar efforts are underway. When the House of Representatives was established the representation ratio was 1 to 60,000. Today, the ratio is 1 to 747,000. Increasing the number of House seats would in turn increase women’s representation. Women and people of color are much more likely to win open-seats due to gender bias and protections typically enjoyed by incumbents.
The 2020 Congressional elections showed this effect: 93% of women incumbents lost their race, 5% of women challengers won their race, and 40% of women running for open-seats won their race.
Ultimately, the proposed Senedd reforms show that structural change is not just needed, but possible across democracies. Seat type is a primary determinant of success for women running for office, and changes must be made to increase women's representation within Congress. Coupling US House expansion with the passage of the Fair Representation Act would lead to a jump in racial and gender diversity within the House.
In its only three years of implementation, this law has contributed to huge progress towards gender balance in corporate boardrooms: women’s representation on corporate boards has doubled since 2018, and 2021 saw more women than men named to California boards. Washington state, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Hawaii have all proposed similar bills. This is further evidence that structural, systemic reform is the most impactful way to achieve gender balance in our lifetimes.
After being challenged by a conservative legal group called Judicial Watch, we were surprised to find out this week that a Los Angeles judge has ruled this law unconstitutional, claiming it violates the right to equal treatment. Nathan Solis of the Los Angeles Times reports,
“Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), co-author of the bill, called the ruling disappointing.
“More women on corporate boards means better decisions and businesses that outperform the competition — that’s a studied, proven fact,” Atkins said in a statement. “We believe this law remains important — despite the disheartening ruling from the Los Angeles Superior Court — and it exemplifies equal access and opportunity, the very bedrock of our democracy. For those still afraid of women in positions of leadership, they need to work on figuring that out because the world is moving on without them.”
Former state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who testified during the trial and was also an SB 826 co-author, said the court’s ruling did not come as a surprise because Duffy-Lewis appeared skeptical of the law’s intention during the trial.
“She rejected what I think are the critical elements and hence ruled against us,” Jackson said by phone Monday. “I look forward to the case going forward to the higher courts and having the appellate courts reinstate the law.”
The court’s ruling is now under review in the secretary of state’s office.
Minnesota State Senator Julia Coleman is one of those women. The Minnesota State Senate has a rule prohibiting visitors on the floor during session - even a Senator’s child. As a result, when State Senator Coleman brings her two year old to work, she must leave him in another room and check on him between sessions. Coleman and others state this is just one of the many deterrents that prevent women from running, for fear that they cannot balance motherhood and their job. Men rarely, if ever, have that concern.
When Erin Maye Quade sought the Minnesota DFL Party state Senate endorsement, she had the misfortune that the day of the convention was the same day as she was expected to go into labor. Ultimately, she went into labor and needed to go to the hospital, and the party decided to essentially disqualify her from the running rather than stop the proceedings.
Without structural reform, women will continue to be deterred from politics. It is on the onus of the parties to implement changes that will accommodate the realities of women’s lives. The desire to have a family should not disqualify someone from serving in office, but unfortunately that is the choice that the overwhelming majority of women and little to no men face.
One common criticism of the idea of more women in leadership is that women lack the ability to lead capably during wartime. Women are often seen as dovish and incapable of both identifying or dealing with a threat. This idea falls flat in the face of reality.
Estonia, under the leadership of woman prime minister Kaja Kallas, has given more aid (as a measure of GDP) to Ukraine for their fight than any other nation on earth. Her steadfast and longtime support for ensuring Estonia’s defense, as well as her longtime willingness to not mince words, stating for years before the current conflict that “Russia’s imperialistic dream has never died,” have earned her the nickname of “Europe’s new Iron Lady.”
The small baltic country is no exception. Just this week Sweden and Finland, two countries led by women prime ministers, both applied to NATO. In the midst of a war of aggression on a neighbor, both countries have decided to get more, not less, involved in ramping up their own defense and the defense of their neighbors. Both countries prided themselves on their neutrality, but faced with new information about the threat posed to their sovereignty these leaders decided that “the way things have always been done” isn’t necessarily “the way they should keep being done.” Perhaps that’s something we can learn from them.