Cynthia Nixon’s loss in a longshot bid for New York governor makes one trend increasingly clear: the “pink wave” is not coming to the shores of governors’ mansions around the country as strong as it is likely heading to Congress.
The odds were particularly stacked against Nixon, who challenged the well-established Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his bid for a third-term nomination, but the obstacles between women and electoral success as governors are real.
There are a record of female gubernatorial nominees this cycle. According to Center for Women and American Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers, 61 women — 41 Democrats and 20 Republicans — filed to run in 2018. The previous record was 34 women who filed to run in 1994.
Only 16 of the 61 have won their primaries — 12 Democrats and four Republicans. That’s a success rate of just 26% — less than half the rate of their congressional counterparts, where almost 49% of female House candidates have won their primaries and exactly half of the 42% of female Senate candidates who won their primaries.
Just comparing gubernatorial and Senate races (there are 36 and 35, respectively), almost double the number of women filed to run for Governor than they did for Senate — 61 in comparison to 36. But, there are almost double the amount of female Senate primary winners than there are gubernatorial primary winners — 22 to 14.
The Senate also features a record-breaking six races where women are running against each other. There are no governors’ races where that is the case.
The women who have won their party’s nomination for governor represent a class of firsts. Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia, could become the first black female governor in the nation’s history and first female governor of Georgia. Paulette Jordan, the Democratic candidate in Idaho, could be the first Native American governor in the country. Lupe Valdez, the Democratic candidate in Texas, could be the first out LGBTQ and Latina governor. Christine Hallquist, the Democratic candidate in Vermont, became the first openly transgender candidate to win a major party nominee for governor. Janet Mills, the Democratic candidate in Maine, and Kristi Noem, the Republican candidate in South Dakota, could be the first female governors of their states.
But, there will still be many states who have never had a woman serve as Governor after the 2018 midterms. Twenty-two states, including left-leaning states like New York and California, have never had a female governor as of now. There are only three states with nominees that could break that barrier: Georgia, Maine and South Dakota.
Races for open gubernatorial seats have proven to be where some of the greatest and worst electoral success have happened in 2018. Eight out of the fourteen female primary winners are running in open races. But in the open gubernatorial primary in Tennessee, four women ran and all of them lost. And in California, three women ran and all lost.
The fourteen women who have won their primary are seeking to add to the six women currently serving as governors in Alabama, Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Rhode Island. Only four of these female governors are running for reelection as governors Susana Martinez and Mary Fallin are term-limited.
The results of the November elections will determine if the women gubernatorial candidates of 2018 can break the record of the female governors to serve simultaneously; according to CAWP, the record of female governors serving at the same time was in 2004 and 2007 when there were nine.