Meet the New Feminists in Office

Meet the diverse group of progressive women being sworn in this month. (Aaaany day now, boys.)

Governors

After three feminists won gubernatorial contests in the midterms, a record-breaking 12 women will lead U.S. states in 2023, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. This means, of course, women will serve as governor in about a quarter of states.

Gov. Maura Healey was declared the victor in Massachusetts minutes after the polls closed (Erin Clark / Getty Images); Gov. Katie Hobbs defeated Trump-backed opponent Kari Lake in Arizona. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Maura Healey, Massachusetts

The first woman and first out lesbian to win a gubernatorial race in her state, Healey was declared the victor within minutes of polls closing, earning a decisive 63 percent of the vote. In her two prior terms as state attorney general, Healey gained a reputation for countering the Trump administration—public radio station WBUR-FM in Boston called her “one of the busiest anti-Trump attorneys general in the country.”

She led or took part in dozens of legal challenges to the former president’s policies, including his Muslim travel ban, weaken- ing of the Affordable Care Act and rollbacks to environmental protections.

More recently, she joined in fighting abortion bans in other states. As she told WBUR, “I’m going to do everything I can to protect the right to abortion and also to protect the rights of LGBTQ community members.”

Joining Healey in statewide office are a slew of Democratic women in top roles: Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Auditor Diana DiZoglio.

Katie Hobbs, Arizona

In the lead-up to Hobbs’ narrow win, election deniers (some of them armed) were “monitoring” ballot boxes, possibly scaring off early voters. And a GOP-controlled county missed a legally mandated deadline, refusing to certify the vote. This, in a state that became a prime target of Trump supporters’ claims of election fraud in 2020—against which Hobbs, in her prior role as Arizona’s secretary of state, held firm.

A former social worker who assisted homeless youth and domestic violence survivors, Hobbs is the first Democratic governor in Arizona in 14 years.

In her victory speech, she said, “Arizonans chose solving our problems over conspiracy theories.”

Tina Kotek, Oregon

One of the nation’s first openly lesbian governors (along with Healey), Kotek was the longest-serving House speaker in state history, holding the role for close to a decade. She led the legislature in passing a number of important measures, including raising the state minimum wage, establishing the country’s first statewide rent control law, creating a paid family and medical leave insurance program, and expanding access to reproductive healthcare.

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek at a rally near the Broadway Bridge on Nov. 8, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. (Mathieu Lewis-Rolland / Getty Images)

“I’ve had the good fortune to be in the position to do things that really improve the lives of Oregonians,” Kotek  told LGBTQ Nation. “This is a state I love … it’s a state that has allowed me to be myself.”

U.S. House

The 2022 midterms saw a net gain of two additional women serving in Congress, with 16 feminist women newly elected to the House.

Top row, left to right: Rep. Mary Peltola from Alaska; Rep. Sydney Kamlager from California; Rep. Yadira Caraveo from Colorado.
Bottom row: Rep. Valerie Foushee from North Carolina; Rep. Emilia Sykes from Ohio; Reps. Val Hoyle from Oregon.
Top row, left to right: Rep. Brittany Pettersen from Colorado; Rep. Jill Tokuda from Hawaii; Reps. Nikki Budzinski and Delia Ramirez from Illinois; Rep. Hillary Scholten from Michigan.
Bottom row: Rep. Andrea Salinas from Oregon; Rep. Summer Lee from Pennsylvania; Rep. Jasmine Crockett from Texas; Rep. Becca Balint from Vermont; Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez from Washington.

State Legislatures

In statehouses across the nation, women made slight gains, though they still make up a mere 32.2 percent of state representatives and senators in 2023, according to the CAWP.

There are, however, two states with women-majority legislatures: Colorado joined Nevada in electing more women than men. And women have obtained more leadership positions. For example, Joanna McClinton (D) will be the new speaker of the Pennsylvania House. She’s the first woman and second Black person to hold this role.

Local Win

Garnering a record number of votes, Karen Bass became the first woman elected mayor of Los Angeles; she’s only the second Black person to serve in the role.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass at the Lorena Plaza affordable housing project construction site where she signed an affordable housing executive directive on Dec. 16, 2022. The directive aims to “dramatically accelerate and lower the cost of building affordable housing and shelter in Los Angeles.” (Mario Tama / Getty Images)

A longtime member of the U.S. House and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass faced off against a real estate mogul whose campaign spent more than $104 million, most of it his own money.

“This is my home,” she said in a statement after her win, “and with my whole heart, I’m ready to serve.”

This article originally appears in the Winter 2023 50th anniversary issue of Ms. Become a member today to read more reporting like this in print and through our app.

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About

Camille Hahn is the managing editor at Ms.