Meet the four newest female governors in the United States

 (Annabella Gizzi | February 23rd, 2023)

| Change the Nation | Promote Equality | Inspire Passion

The 2022 United States midterm election cycle resulted in several notable outcomes, including a record number of women elected to serve as governors. Among the women elected in 2022 were four newcomers: Katie Hobbs of Arizona, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Tina Kotek of Oregon, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas. These four women, along with the eight other incumbent women governors, are helping create and inspire a new generation of female leaders in the US. 


One of the most interesting races in 2022 was Arizona’s gubernatorial election. Rated as a “tossup” by Cook Political, the race between Democrat Katie Hobbs and Republican Kari Lake was anyone’s to win. Ultimately, Hobbs narrowly defeated Lake in the general election, with 50.3 percent to 49.6 percent. Although Lake challenged the results of the election, most of her lawsuits were dismissed and Katie Hobbs was sworn in on January 2, 2023. 


Before her election as governor, Katie Hobbs served as Arizona’s 21st secretary of state. She most notably presided over the 2020 presidential election results, which were subject to several lawsuits from the Trump Administration. Hobbs was generally praised for her handling of the lawsuits, which were ultimately dismissed. Before entering politics, Katie Hobbs was a social worker, a job she says influenced her decision to run for office. According to the Office of the Governor’s official website, her background as a social worker and domestic violence advocate has made reproductive healthcare one of her top priorities, because she  “has seen firsthand the devastating effects that a dangerous, traumatizing, or unplanned pregnancy can have on a woman and her family”.


Hobbs’ other main priorities, according to her website, include improving education, economic growth and workforce development, and immigration and border security, which is particularly relevant for Arizona due to its position on the Southern Border. 


Although not necessarily a competitive race, the Massachusetts gubernatorial election was also notable. Democrat Maura Healey defeated Republican Geoff Deihl 63.8 percent to 34.7 percent, becoming the first woman and first LGBTQ+ person to be elected governor from Massachusetts, and one of the first openly lesbian governors, along with Tina Kotek of Oregon. 


Before becoming a politician, Healey played professional women’s basketball in Austria after co-captaining her college team, the Harvard Crimson. After her time in Austria, Healey returned to Massachusetts and in 2014 was elected to serve as the state’s attorney general.


Among her list of top priorities are climate change and clean energy, affordable and abundant housing, high-quality education, and safe and reliable transportation. Healey has also focused on building a diverse and experienced cabinet that includes five women and three people of color after assuming office on January 5, 2023. 


Democrat Tina Kotek won Oregon’s gubernatorial election with 47 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Christine Drazan and Independent Betsy Johnson. Although Oregon is typically seen as a solidly blue state, Betsy Johnson’s candidacy tightened the race a bit by splitting some of the expected Democrat votes. 


The election of Kotek made her the first LGBTQ+ governor to replace another LGBTQ+ governor – Kate Brown, who served as governor from 2014-2022, identified as bisexual.


Prior to her election as governor, Tina Kotek served in the Oregon State Legislature, eventually becoming Speaker of the House, and was the first openly lesbian woman to serve as Speaker of a state legislature nationwide.


Since her inauguration on January 9, 2023, Tina Kotek’s top priorities have included addressing the housing crisis, which is particularly prominent in Portland, protecting Oregon from wildfires, women’s rights, and racial justice. 


The fourth and final new female governor is Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who handily won her race against Democrat Chris Jones, elected by 63.1 percent to 35.1 percent. With her election, Sanders became the first woman to be elected governor of Arkansas and is currently the youngest serving governor. 


Sarah Huckabee Sanders grew up around politics, as the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and served as Press Secretary for the Trump Administration. 


Most recently, Sanders was selected to deliver the Republican response to President Biden’s 2023 State of the Union Address. In her speech, she highlighted that she is the youngest governor in the US currently and emphasized the importance of electing younger leaders. Many of her priorities center around education reform, and in her short tenure as governor has already banned critical race theory from being taught in public schools. To combat Arkansas’ current ranking at 47 in terms of educated populations by state and 27 in terms of education quality, she has released a new plan that would improve the state’s education practices, and include substantial pay raises for many of the state’s teachers. 


With every barrier broken, these four women – with the help of the other eight incumbent female governors – are helping to shatter the glass ceiling in the United States and can be viewed as lighting the torch for a new generation of female leaders. 

Works cited: 

“Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll.”, 

“Governor Tina Kotek.” Governor of Oregon : Governor Tina Kotek : State of Oregon, 

“Katie Hobbs.” Ballotpedia, 

Kienlen, Alex. “Study: Arkansas Ranks near Bottom as a State with an Educated Population.” KLRT – FOX16.Com, KLRT – FOX16.Com, 13 Feb. 2023, 

“Maura Healey.” Ballotpedia, 

“Office of the Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs.” Office of the Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, 

“Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas Governor.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas Governor, 

“Tina Kotek.” Ballotpedia, 

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