Woman Running for Lieutenant Governor? You’re Helping Your Running Mate More Than Yourself

Ten men running for governor in 2014 have already picked women running mates. But don’t expect many of them to become governors in their own rights.

Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, shown above speaking at the 2012 Republican National Convention, is one of many women running mates to male gubernatorial candidates in 2014.
National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
April 10, 2014, 1 a.m.

Both parties are work­ing to woo wo­men voters in this year’s midterms, and in do­ing so many men run­ning for gov­ernor in blue and swing states are turn­ing to an ob­vi­ous tac­tic: pick­ing a fe­male run­ning mate.

It could be a small-scale pre­view of what we might see in 2016 if either party has, yet again, a man top­ping its pres­id­en­tial tick­et. But al­though pick­ing fe­male lieu­ten­ant gov­ernors is a smart stra­tegic choice, when it comes to gender par­ity in polit­ics the lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor slot hasn’t been a suc­cess­ful launch­ing pad for high­er of­fice — par­tic­u­larly in the 17 states where gubernat­ori­al can­did­ates choose their run­ning mates them­selves, as op­posed to those where can­did­ates fight it out in­de­pend­ently in primar­ies.

In the end, the of­fer is more of­ten a con­sol­a­tion prize for di­versity than a chance to climb atop the polit­ic­al lad­der.

Of the fe­male sidekicks to be fea­tured in 2014 races, some are carry­overs serving their first term as lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor while oth­ers are pair­ing up with chal­lengers for the first time. Re­pub­lic­an Lt. Govs. Kim Reyn­olds (Iowa), Mary Taylor (Ohio), and Re­becca Kleefisch (Wis­con­sin), plus Demo­crat Nancy Wy­man of Con­necti­c­ut, will cam­paign for reelec­tion along­side Gov­ernors Terry Bran­stad, John Kasich, Scott Walk­er and Dan Mal­loy. In Min­nesota, Demo­crat­ic Gov. Mark Dayton’s long­time polit­ic­al aide Tina Smith will team up with Demo­crat­ic Gov. Mark Dayton in Min­nesota. One fe­male LG, Demo­crat Sheila Si­mon in Illinois, is step­ping aside to run for state comp­troller.

Among chal­lengers, Illinois Re­pub­lic­an Bruce Rau­ner has tapped Wheaton City Coun­cil­wo­man Evelyn San­guinetti. In Mas­sachu­setts, 2010 Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee Charlie Baker has teamed up with former state Rep. Karyn Polito, and in Ohio Demo­crat Ed FitzGer­ald picked at­tor­ney and former con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate Shar­en Neuhardt. Demo­crat Paul Dav­is also paired up with fin­an­cial plan­ner Jill Dock­ing in Kan­sas, and Mark Schauer re­cently ad­ded Oak­land County Clerk Lisa Brown to the Demo­crat­ic tick­et in Michigan. Re­pub­lic­an Rob As­torino is re­portedly con­sid­er­ing state As­semb­ly­wo­man Nicole Mal­li­ota­kis as his run­ning mate in New York.

The stra­tegic cal­cu­la­tion for a lot of these choices is plain, but the long-term be­ne­fits for the run­ning mates are less re­li­able. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Wo­men in Polit­ics at Rut­gers Uni­versity, of the 35 wo­men who have served as Amer­ic­an gov­ernors, 11 pre­vi­ously served as lieu­ten­ants, but just two of those wo­men earned their deputy post as the res­ult of be­ing se­lec­ted as a run­ning mate. The oth­er nine hail from states where they ran com­pet­it­ive races for the LG spot in their own right.

The po­s­i­tion comes second to at­tor­ney gen­er­al, when it comes to get­ting its fe­male alumni in­to the top job. Erin Souza-Rezendes, the com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for the Bar­bara Lee Fam­ily Found­a­tion, points out that of the 20 fe­male lieu­ten­ants who have run for gov­ernor, just 35 per­cent have won their races, while the suc­cess rate for fe­male at­tor­neys gen­er­al is 50 per­cent. (But, only six wo­men at­tor­neys gen­er­al have ever sought gov­ernor­ships.)

The lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor po­s­i­tion has been most help­ful at get­ting wo­men the pro­mo­tion “lit­er­ally when the gov­ernor leaves,” CAWP dir­ect­or Debbie Walsh said. Jodi Rell of Con­necti­c­ut, Olene Walk­er of Utah, Jane Swift of Mas­sachu­setts, and Jan Brew­er of Ari­zona are just four re­cent ex­amples of wo­men who stepped in­to the top job when their pre­de­cessor left.

This pos­sib­il­ity isn’t lost on those work­ing to move wo­men up the polit­ic­al pipeline. Re­pub­lic­an Sue Lowden and Demo­crat Lucy Flores are com­pet­it­ive can­did­ates for lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor in Nevada this year, a state where many won­der if Gov. Bri­an San­dov­al will run for Sen­ate in 2016, po­ten­tially leav­ing be­hind an open­ing for the state’s first fe­male gov­ernor.

In­stead, Walsh noted, “At­tor­neys gen­er­al are more likely to make good gubernat­ori­al can­did­ates. It’s still a non-tra­di­tion­al job for wo­men. They’re the chief law en­force­ment of­ficer of the state, and there’s a pre­sumed strength and tough­ness that comes with that job.” She poin­ted to Janet Na­pol­it­ano, Jen­nifer Gran­holm, Christine Gregoire and Susana Mar­tinez, a former dis­trict at­tor­ney, as ex­amples of gov­ernors who fit this mold.

In the Bar­bara Lee Fam­ily Found­a­tion’s 2004 re­port “Crack­ing the Code: Polit­ic­al In­tel­li­gence for Wo­men Run­ning for Gov­ernor,” one fo­cus group par­ti­cipant put it this way: “Lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor is kind of like be­ing the spouse.” An­oth­er called them “ju­ni­or part­ners.” In a pre­vi­ous study from the found­a­tion in 1998, voters ranked lieu­ten­ants second to at­tor­neys gen­er­al as the po­s­i­tion they thought made wo­men most qual­i­fied to be gov­ernor, fol­lowed by big city may­or and state le­gis­lat­or.

As mem­bers of both parties work to bring more wo­men in­to the polit­ic­al fold this cycle, the run­ning mate pick will re­main an es­sen­tial tool in their tool­box. But if his­tory is any guide, choos­ing a fe­male run­ning mate looks more likely to help a male gov­ernor get elec­ted than to set the stage for a fe­male suc­cessor.

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