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Opinion Piece: Over 30 States Have Elected Female Governors. Will California Finally Join Them?

In its 173-year history as a state, California has seen 40 governors come and go, representing various political parties, professions, and backgrounds. Yet, notably absent from this roster is a woman.

This omission stands out starkly in a state that prides itself on progressive ideals and inclusivity. In 1992, the state made history by electing two female U.S. senators simultaneously. Despite this, the governor’s office remains elusive for women, symbolizing a lingering glass ceiling in California politics.

Opinion Piece (Credits: The Wall Street Journal)

But things might be different in 2026. Well-known Democrats such as Eleni Kounalakis, who is California’s first female lieutenant governor, Toni Atkins, the first woman to lead both the Assembly and state Senate and former state controller Betty Yee, are all running to take over after Gavin Newsom’s term ends.

This diverse field reflects the changing face of California politics and presents the opportunity for historic firsts. Democratic contenders like Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Schools Chief Tony Thurmond are vying to become the state’s first Filipino American governor and first Black and Latino governor, respectively.

Opinion Piece (Credits: Vanity Fair)

Atkins could become California’s first openly LGBTQ+ governor and female chief executive. Electing a female governor in a state where women outnumber men among registered voters would not only address a conspicuous void in leadership but also mark a significant milestone in California’s political history.

Despite the absence of a female governor, California has seen women rise to prominent political positions, including U.S. senators, state legislators, and local leaders.

However, few women have pursued the governorship seriously, with notable exceptions like Dianne Feinstein, Kathleen Brown, and Meg Whitman.

Looking forward to the 2026 gubernatorial election in California, there’s a big possibility of having a female governor for the first time. This could help break stereotypes and open up new paths in the state’s politics.

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