THIS newspaper does not endorse political candidates, but in the case of the Nebraska gubernatorial race we can confidently make a flat prediction: The state's next governor will be a woman. Helen Boosalis, a Democrat and a former mayor of Lincoln, and Kay Orr, state treasurer and longtime state Republican Party activist, emerged winners in Tuesday's primary races. Whoever wins will be the state's first woman governor; if Ms. Orr wins, she will be the nation's first Republican woman governor.
Their victories demonstrate the principle of grass-roots involvement, of working up through the ranks in politics; and they are a victory for all those who want to see women represented in political races in roughly the same numbers as they are in the human race.
After trailing men in voting ever since getting the right to the ballot in 1920, American women finally pulled even with men in their participation in elections in 1980. Then in 1984, women pulled ahead of men -- 60.8 percent of women voted, as against 59 percent of men.
This steady commitment in the voting booth, as well as continuing campaigns for posts on school boards, at city hall, and in the governor's mansions of the country will build a corps of women with the solid experience to serve in higher office -- and the White House.
The two winners led a field of 15 candidates, and they weren't the only women, either. In fact, some Republican observers had thought that University of Nebraska regent Nancy Hoch, considered a strong contender, would split the state's Republican feminist vote with Orr and give the GOP candidacy to former party chairman Kermit Brashear. And 83-year-old Mina Dillingham, considered a marginal candidate, made her run on the Democratic ticket and won several hundred votes.
The Nebraska race wasn't a ``women's sweep,'' however; there were a number of unsuccessful women candidates.
It wasn't exactly an issues race, either. All Nebraskans focus on the farm situation and other economic matters. The voter turn-out, around 40 percent, was characterized as ``decent,'' given the lack of statewide ballot issues, and the fact that Nebraska is not voting for a senator this November and that only one House member faced primary opposition. Post-card voter registration, introduced since the 1984 elections, was a plus for getting the vote out.
Meanwhile, Nebraskans are scratching their heads as to what to call the ``first gentleman,'' whether it turns out to be Bill Orr or Mike Boosalis. Wags are suggesting as a title ``the Duke of Husker.''