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Unlocking the Door to Executive Office: Essential Tips for Women Candidates (2015)

The Barbara Lee Family Foundation (BLFF) has tracked every woman’s general election race for governor since 1998, and 2014 was no exception. With a goal to continually illuminate opportunities and obstacles for women running for executive office, BLFF worked with Dr. Kelly Dittmar and the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University to produce qualitative research on the 2014 gubernatorial elections with women candidates.

While the 2014 races for governor didn’t break any records for the number of female candidates, nominees, or winners, nine women won their party’s nomination for governor. Of those nine candidates, five won in the general election. A sixth woman, Kate Brown, became Governor of Oregon in early 2015 after the sitting Governor resigned.

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Listen to our “Unlocking the Doors to Executive Office” webinar with Republican pollster Christine Matthews and Democratic strategist Sydney Asbury here:
Findings show that gubernatorial candidates and their opponents in 2014 varied in the ways they used gender in their campaigns, with partisan and cultural contexts playing a significant role. However, in evaluating all nine gubernatorial races with women nominees, some themes emerged that are informative for all women candidates for executive office, no matter the party or state.

Key Findings

  1.  Preparation is Paramount – Running an effective statewide campaign requires advance planning and anticipation of potential hurdles along the way.
  2. Money (Really) Matters – It’s important for any candidate to build a fundraising operation early in the campaign that draws upon their personal and professional networks, but it is critical for women.
  3. Compassion and Competence are Key – Women candidates enter campaigns with eyes wide open to the fact that they can expect attacks on their qualifications. Voters expect women to prove they are qualified for the job.
  4. Authentic Leadership is Important – Candidates must stay true to the motivation and goals of their candidacy.
  5. Relatability is Evolving – Exposing voters to the personal stories behind a candidate’s political and policy positions proves beneficial to candidates.