Yesterday, State Senator Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor of New Jersey, named union executive Milly Silva as her running mate. New Jersey is now only the third state ever to field a two-woman major party ticket in the general election for a state’s top elective posts, following examples set by Democrats in Illinois in 1994 and Republicans in Kentucky in 1999.
Silva, 42, is vice president of SEIU 1199, which represents health care workers in the Garden State. A Latina, she is also the first person of color to run for the number two position in New Jersey, which has existed only since 2009. (Since the position was created, no man has been chosen as a major-party candidate for lieutenant governor of New Jersey.)
Governor Chris Christie also has a female running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, formerly sheriff of Monmouth County.
“Whatever the outcome of this race, it’s further evidence that New Jersey women are making their mark in politics,” observed Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP). “Less than a decade ago, we were among the ten worst states for electing women to state legislatures; now we’re 11th in the nation. While we still have work to do – particularly at the congressional level, where we have no women in our 14-member House and Senate delegation – we’re headed in the right direction, with many strong political women who want their voices heard.”
The first two-woman ticket ran in Illinois in 1994, when Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch chose State Senator Penny Severns as her running mate. The second two-woman ticket included 1999 gubernatorial candidate Peppy Martin, a public relations executive, and Taylor County school board member Wanda Cornelius, both Kentucky Republicans. Both all-female tickets lost their races.
Since 1940, a total of 35 women (20D, 15R) have served as governors in 26 states, and 78 women (41D, 35R, 1 A Connecticut Party, 1 Reform Party) have served as lieutenant governors in 37 states. Forty-three states have lieutenant governors; in other states, another official, typically the Secretary of State or Senate president, is next in line to succeed the governor, whether permanently or in an acting capacity. In 25 states, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor share a ticket; in 18 states, candidates run independently for the two positions.
New Jersey has had one woman governor to date, Christine Todd Whitman (R), who served from 1994-2001, when she resigned to become administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Before Senator Buono, Whitman was the only female major party nominee for governor of New Jersey. Other women have sought their parties’ nominations unsuccessfully, starting with Democrat Ann Klein in 1973 and including Democrat Barbara McConnell in 1981.
In Virginia, the only other state holding statewide elections in 2013, there are no women running for statewide office in either party.