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Women's History Month: Glass Ceilings Broken in the 2022 Elections

Earlier this month, we looked a bit in the history files for an overview of women’s involvement in politics. Now let's look a bit more recently at some noticeable races from this past year. Even with the 24 hour news cycle, we so often miss plenty of historic firsts achieved by women in American politics. Here’s a few notable firsts:

Statewide firsts

In California, the first black woman elected Secretary of State, Shirley Webers, won a full term after being appointed in 2020. Connecticut also elected the first black woman secretary of state, Stephanie Thomas. Lydia York became the first black woman elected to state auditor in Delaware.

Turning to Maryland, they saw two firsts in electing the first South Asian woman as lieutenant governor, Aruna Miller, and Brooke Lierman was the first woman elected as state comptroller.

And not one but two states will be led by both a woman governor and lieutenant governor. Massachusetts is headed by Governor Maura Healey alongside Kim Driscoll as lieutenant governor. In Arkansas, we saw the election of the first woman Governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Leslie Rutledge. In Ohio, the Democratic gubernatorial ticket of Nan Whaley and Cheryl Stephens was the first all-woman ticket in state history.

Also, Kathy Hochul became the first woman elected governor of New York winning a full term. Andrea Campbell will be the first black woman to serve as attorney general of Massachusetts. Charity Clark will be the first woman elected attorney general of Vermont.

In another remarkable milestone, Katie Hobbs has become, not the first, but the fifth woman governor of Arizona. In fact, Arizona holds the record for most women governors.

Currently, 12 women serve as governor, which is a record, and 21 serve as lieutenant governor. The total percentage of women serving statewide increased to 30.3%, up from 24% before the 2022 elections. Governor Katie Hobbs

State legislature and municipal firsts

Despite their importance in the policy making process and proximity to American voter’s daily lives, state legislatures don’t attract as much attention and escape a great deal of scrutiny relative to federal or statewide elected officials. With over seven thousand state legislatures across the country, there are a lot of folks and legislation for us to keep track of during an election cycle and or active legislative session.

After the 2022 elections, many states have the highest number of women serving in their respective state legislatures. There are a total of 2,404 women serving in state legislatures (32.6%) 1,815 serve in the lower house (33.5%) and 589 serve in the upper house (29.9%) Nevada has more than half of their legislature made up of women (60.7%).

In Maine, Rachel Talbot Ross is the first black woman to serve as speaker of the State House. Another leadership accomplishment of note is from Iowa where the house minority leadership team is all women led by Minority leader Jennifer Konforst, the first time in Iowa where women make up all the Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross leadership slots.

With municipal races, we at Vote Smart barely scratch the surface of covering candidates. From fixing potholes to policing the streets, local elected officials make decisions that affect your life everyday. Sometimes you can bump into your Mayor at the grocery store. Other cities have mayors that are making decisions for a city which has a bigger population than my home state of Iowa. One notable example from this latest election is Karen Bass, who was elected as the first woman and first black woman to serve as Los Angeles mayor.

Federal level

Overall, the 118th Congress has more women than ever before. 149 seats are filled by women in the 118th Congress. Percentage wise, 25% of the Senate are women, the House stands at 28.3% women.

Figure 1

Katie Britt first woman senator elected from Alabama. Becca Balint first woman and first lesbian woman elected to Congress from Vermont. Now, with her election, every state has elected a woman to Congress.

Mary Peltola became the first woman and first Alaska Native elected to the U.S. House from Alaska. Latina women accomplished notable gains in representation with Yadira Caraveo– the first latina elected to Congress from Colorado in the new 8th district, Delia Ramirez as the first latina elected to Congress from Illinois and Marie Gluesnkamp Perez as the first latina to be elected to Congress from Washington. Also, Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Andrea Salinas are the first latinas elected to Congress from Oregon. Karoline Leavitt was the first Gen-Z woman to win the nomination of a major party for Congress Senator Katie Britt and Marcy Kaptur from Ohio is now the longest serving woman in Congress, breaking the record set by Barbara Mikulski from Maryland. Summer Lee became the first black woman elected to Congress from Pennsylvania. Jennifer McClellan is the first black woman elected to Congress from Virginia. They are among the 27 black women who are currently serving in Congress which is the a new record for Congress.

Securing a new first in leadership is Senator Patty Murray from Washington, who became the first woman to serve as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. She is now third in line for presidential succession, behind the vice president and the speaker of the house.

In closing, this is just a glimpse of some of the women who threw their hat into the ring. You don’t have to win to make a difference. The more variety we have at the decision making table, the better for us all. We all can learn and benefit from other people’s stories and experience. I hope that you check out their backgrounds and are hopefully Patty Murray inspired to learn a little more about them. We can’t President Pro Tempore

cover everything for sure but our site is a great place to start to learn about the folks working for you.

This research was compiled by Lori Hunt and Nick Israel

Lori Hunt (she/her) has been at Vote Smart since September of 2021 and is currently a membership associate. She obtained her B.A. in Political Science in Political Science from Iowa State University and has an extensive background in working for non-profits and in politics in Iowa. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, baking, reading, writing, and being a great cat mom.

Nick Israel (he/him/his) has been at Vote Smart since January 2022 and researched candidate issue positions before becoming Director of Elections Research last December. Prior to working at the organization, he studied political science and history at the University of Washington and American government at Georgetown University. In his free time, he likes to read political history.


Kim. “Women Steadily Gain in Elective Office, Setting Several 'Firsts' - National Organization for Women.” National Organization for Women -, January 20, 2023.

Press, Will Newton/Associated. “Record Number of Women Were Elected Governor in 2022.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, November 26, 2022.

Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch December 6. “Parties Finalize Iowa House Leadership for 2023 Session.” Iowa Capital Dispatch, December 6, 2022.

Leppert, Rebecca, and Drew DeSilver. “118th Congress Has a Record Number of Women.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, February 1, 2023.

Boschma, Janie, Simone Pathe, Maeve Reston, and Renée Rigdon. “A Record Number of Women Will Serve in the next Congress | CNN Politics.” CNN. Cable News Network, January 2, 2023.

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