Cracking the Code (2002)


“…now you’ve got a number of us who have been elected governor, which was always considered a big leap. People get used to it, and the more people are used to it, the less difficult it’s going to be.”
– Candidate

Clearly, it’s easier to envision women governors today. Voters have gotten used to the idea of women in power, and while they still hold female candidates to a higher standard than male candidates, voters no longer see women governors as outside of the norm.

However, women candidates and their campaigns sometimes lose sight of the importance of voter perception. Some campaigns over-schedule the candidate and end up with a less than sharp debater. Other campaigns frugally send a candidate on a fundraising trip alone, only to discover that potential donors don’t see the lone visitor as “gubernatorial.” Still other campaigns shield their candidates from engaging with the press, preventing voters from getting that authentic glimpse of gutsiness that would win them over.

These findings would be discouraging, if not for the growing number of triumphant women governors who met these higher standards and surpassed them, who ran into these roadblocks and cleared them with room to spare.

More women are winning, despite the decline of the so-called benefits of “running as a woman,” like voter presumptions of honesty and reform.

Women are running sophisticated races, accounting for the contours of gender in their strategies and beating the system. As women exercise the power they’ve won as attorney general or state treasurer, they open up more strategies for moving up. The more women run, the more ways of winning are developed and tested.

The question for the future isn’t, “Can we?” The question for the future is, “How many?”