Women grab more governorships and US Senate seats

In 11 governors' races, only one sees party shift: Democrats win West Virginia.

For all the nail-biting craziness and unprecedented confusion in the national elections this week, one thing is clear: The new faces of American politics increasingly are female.

Around the country, the number of women holding gubernatorial seats now stands at five - the highest ever.

In an age of devolution politics - the shifting of authority from Washington to the states - this means that more women hold the power to influence laws and craft policies closest to the people. And they are in a position to build careers toward the day when women will more logically be considered for inclusion on a presidential ticket.

In the United States Senate, women this week boosted their numbers as well, from nine to as many as a dozen. The new women senators - three if the initial results hold - will have taken office under very unusual circumstances.

For better or for worse, Democrat Hillary Clinton in New York, one of the most polarizing figures in politics today, is mostly known at this point for being first lady to another of this country's historically most polarizing politicians: lame duck President Bill Clinton.

Democrat Maria Cantwell in Washington State, who may have ousted Republican incumbent Slade Gorton (the race was whisker-close at time of writing), built her campaign war chest and point of view the new-fashioned way: By making millions in the land of Microsoft and other high-tech powerhouses and then bankrolling her own election.

And Democrat Jean Carnahan of Missouri looks set to spend at least two years appointed to the Senate seat won by her late husband and former Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash last month. While the crash came too late for Democrats to nominate another candidate, voters were told that, should Mr. Carnahan be elected, his wife would be tapped by the governor for a two-year term. She ousts incumbent John Ashcroft (R).

Meanwhile, the number of women state chief executives is expanding as well.

In Delaware, Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D) defeated former state lawmaker John Burris. Ms. Minner began her political career in the 1970s as a statehouse receptionist.

Across the country in Montana, Republican Lt. Gov. Judy Martz beat state auditor Mark O'Keefe (D) to replace Gov. Marc Racicot (R), who was barred by term limits from reelection.

In New Hampshire, incumbent Gov. Jean Shaheen (D) fended off former US Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R) in a classic Granite State race focusing on the hot-button issue of whether or not to launch a state income tax.

Together with Republican Jane Hull in Arizona and Christine Whitman in New Jersey (neither of whom were up for reelection), that brings the number of women governors to five.

There are other new faces to be seen in governors' mansions, as well.

North Carolina attorney general Mike Easley (D) beat former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot in a race to replace James Hunt (D), barred by term limits from seeking reelection.

North Dakota banker John Hoeven (R) beat Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, a former Environmental Protection Agency lawyer in her second term as that state's first female attorney general. That had been a close race which might have added another woman to the list of governors except for a health problem Ms. Heitkamp had to deal with during the campaign.

In the only gubernatorial race in which an incumbent was ousted, US Rep. Bob Wise (D) of West Virginia beat Cecil Underwood (R). Mr. Underwood had served twice as governor, the first time more than 40 years ago.

In a very close race in Missouri, state treasurer Bob Holden (D) was declared the winner over US Rep. James Talent (R). Mr. Holden replaces the late Mel Carnahan (D).

In all, 11 governors' seats were contested this week. In addition to the six newcomers who will take office and Governor Shaheen, incumbents Gary Locke (D) in Washington, Mike Leavitt (R) in Utah, Frank O'Bannon (D) of Indiana, and Howard Dean (D) of Vermont all were reelected.

On the 11 governor's races, Democrats picked up one, bringing the total to 19 Democrats, 29 Republicans, and two independents.

Around the country, there are many other new faces to be seen in politics ranging from the relative handful of new members of Congress (and even smaller number of those who ousted incumbents) to state legislators to mayors and city council members.

New mayors were elected in Sacramento and San Diego, Calif. City Councilor Heather Fargo fought a long and expensive race to become mayor of Sacramento. In another close race, Superior Court Judge Dick Murphy (R) takes over as San Diego's mayor.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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