Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science

First Advisor

David Darmofal


Women are underrepresented in public office. One of the lowest percentages belongs to women serving as governor. Only nine women currently hold the office. Research has shown that when women run, they win. They are just as competitive as men. And yet, one particular question remains. Why don’t more women run? That is why I have chosen to focus this dissertation on the influences on the presence of a female candidate as opposed to the influences on the presence of a female governor. I argue that it is important to begin with candidacy instead of working backward. If the salient question is why are aren’t more women running for office, it is more important to focus on how women get on the ballot instead of how they win the election. A larger number of female candidates could lead to a larger number of female governors.

This dissertation focuses on gubernatorial races involving female major party candidates. First, I evaluate races involving a female incumbent. Second, I evaluate races involving a male incumbent and a female challenger. Next I focus on the smaller subset of cases involving two female major party candidates. My final chapters evaluate the difference between gubernatorial races involving female candidates before and after the 2016 presidential election. My findings provide support for both of my hypotheses. The presence of a female governor discourages female challengers and the presence of a female major party candidate in the 2016 presidential election has increased the levels of ambition for possible female gubernatorial candidates.