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Women Governors - 2002-09-05

Labor Day weekend is traditionally busy for political candidates. Among those running, with what many say is a good chance of winning, are 15 women. All with their eyes on the governor's mansion. Only 19 women have made it there in the past.

In Maryland, there is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, with her famous political name. She’s the daughter of Robert Kennedy, and the niece of President Kennedy. Another woman with a well-known name, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, is running in Florida.

"What you see is what you get."

Beyond those two, 13 other women in 12 states -- mostly Democrats -- are still in the running for November. Marie Wilson, at the White House Project:

”That's the trick. To get a lot of women out there so you can get beyond the issue of gender.”


The candidate generating the most excitement is Democrat Jennifer Granholm in Michigan, the favorite to become that state's first female governor.

While the number of women in Congress might actually decline after the election, this gubernatorial surge comes after women have spent the last generation working up the ladder of state and local government.

These women have learned to play at what has been a man's game, the big-time fundraising and coalition building required winning a state's highest office.

"There's a lot of possibility now, much more than there was forty years ago. I believe that all across the United States people are ready to have a woman leader, a woman governor."

And victories now could provide what this country still lacks: credible female candidates for president and vice president. Four out of the last five presidents were governors before coming to Washington.

Michigan's Granholm has rock-star appeal and a big-state base, which would make her an obvious candidate for vice president or maybe even president, but there is one catch -- Granholm was born in Canada, and is barred by the Constitution from serving in the White House. But these women will almost certainly win enough of these governors’ races to put the country closer than it has ever been to a woman president.