Leading with Authority (2008)

“Men are used to being in charge. Running for office is something they take as an entitlement. Women need to show ‘I have the right.'”


Four women ran for Governor in 2008: Governor Chris Gregoire (WA), then-Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue (NC), Speaker Gaye Symington (VT) and former Congresswoman Jill Long Thompson (IN). Two challenged popular sitting Governors, one competed for an open seat and the fourth was an incumbent whose race was largely viewed as a rerun of her historically close 2004 contest. The challengers lost, the incumbent and open seat contender won.

These contests were played out under the giant shadow of the most interesting Presidential contest in a generation; one that sapped media attention, volunteers and money. It set a tone and delivered a message of change that dominated every other race in the country. These gubernatorial candidates were measured against their Party’s Presidential nominee as much as against their opponents.

Since there were fewer campaigns to learn from in 2008 and because the candidacies and their circumstances were so different, we cannot claim findings or draw broad conclusions as we have in past years. Instead, we have tried to bring to light new evidence of chronic problems and to look more closely at how they appeared. We also note new issues that may point us to a developing trend and report where there is a change in direction from the past or where an old problem appears to be solved.