Monday, August 3, 2009

Female Governors

If Kay Bailey Hutchison wins the Texas gubernatorial election I discussed here, she would by no means be the first woman to be elected to that position.

While 27 of the states have never had a female governor, Texas has elected two women to be that state's chief executive. Miriam (Ma) Ferguson was elected in 1924. She served one two-year term, then left office for six years, before being elected to another two-year term in 1932. As was the case with many female officeholders at that time, Ferguson's husband, James Ferguson (and, yes, he was called "Pa") had previously held the office in which his wife subsequently served.

That usually happened if the husband died, or was disqualified from running for a subsequent term. Pa Ferguson was disqualified, not because of a term limit, but because the Legislature removed him from office via the impeachment process, and barred him from holding public office for the rest of his life.

Ann Richards was elected governor in 1990 (by then the term had been lengthened to four years). By that time, most female politicians (including Richards) won office independently of any achievement on their husbands' part.

Richards was a favorite among her fellow Democrats, for having taken on both of the Presidents Bush. At her party's 1988 national convention, Richards neatly skewered George H.W. Bush for both his ineloquence and his patrician background, by saying he was born with a silver foot in his mouth. George W. Bush achieved the family's revenge against her, six years later, when he defeated her attempt at reelection.

Texas is one of five states with more than one female governor in its history. Arizona leads with four.

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