Influential Women in State Politics

Maine’s Janet Mills is a Worthy Foil for Governor
State's AG has tangled with the man some say she should replace

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

In high school, Janet T. Mills memorized a speech by Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine denouncing McCarthyism.  

Half a century later, the words have not left that state’s first woman attorney general.  

Trump Feud Dims Susana Martinez's Veep Prospects
But billionaire mogul would still like her endorsement

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was the first Latina elected governor in the United States. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The most prominent Latina in U.S. politics recently found herself joining a long list of public figures caught in the crosshairs of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez made history in 2010 as the state’s first female governor, and the first Latina to ever hold that position in the U.S.

Kimberly Yee Goes Against the Grain in Arizona
Conservative lawmaker blazes a trail for Asian-Americans in the GOP

Kimberly Yee has made her mark on a host of issues including abortion, education and government mismanagement. (Courtesy Kimberly Yee for Arizona 2016)

When Kimberly Yee ran for a full term in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010, political consultants had a few suggestions on how to address her Chinese heritage.  

One said she should use her husband’s last name — Mar — which somehow seemed less Asian, even though he is also of Chinese descent. Another suggested she drop her last name altogether from campaign signs, which would simply read: “KIMBERLY.” Yee was taken aback.  

For Colorado’s Cynthia Coffman, Defending Sovereignty Is Not Easy
"We sometimes end up defending causes that we don’t support, but that’s our job."

Cynthia Coffman has had a long career in law in Georgia and Colorado. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP file photo)

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s firm belief in the sovereignty of states and her determination to defend it at all costs have placed her in a few difficult positions.

Since becoming attorney general in 2014, Coffman, a Republican, has had to defend Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, which she opposed before voters approved it. Last year, she joined two dozen states in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, leading to tensions with Colorado's Democratic governor who supports the plan.

Flores' Top Issue Reminds Voters of Controversy
'Education is the golden ticket,' says Florida state senator Anitere Flores

Anitere Flores, introduced at the Republican National Committee town hall meetings as a "rising star" talks about her goal as Republican. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

When Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores is asked about her greatest accomplishments, she immediately turns to her work on education — the same issue her opponents turn to when attacking her.  

Education is one of several areas where Flores has had an impact during her dozen years in the Florida legislature. From the time she first won election as a state representative in 2004, Flores caught the attention of leaders in her party and was selected, as a freshman, to serve on the prestigious budget conference committee.  

Kamala Harris Aims to Make History in California, Again
State attorney general could be second ever African-American woman in Senate

Kamala Harris was the first woman, the first African-American and the first person of South-Asian descent to be elected attorney general in California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety file photo)

Kamala Harris broke down barriers in California politics during a decades-long career in criminal justice. In 2016, she’s on track to do so again — this time on the national stage.  

A career that began in the Alameda County district attorney's office is now poised to take Harris — if things go right this November — to the United States Senate.  

A Career of Firsts for Illinois Chief Justice Rita Garman
From county prosecutor to top state court justice, Garman has blazed trails

Illinois Supreme Court justice Rita R. Garman questions an attorney during oral arguments. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Christi Craddick Says Texans Know Best
Oil regulator dubbed 'Texas Oil Queen' pushes back against federal regulation

Christi Craddick, a former oil and gas attorney, is now a member of the state commission regulating the industry in Texas.

Regulating the Texas oil and gas business is no small job, but the commission that does so doesn’t need more help from the federal government, said Christi Craddick.

Craddick, a Republican member of that state panel misleadingly named the Texas Railroad Commission, has railed against federal intervention in the industry, which she says is best regulated by those closest to it on the ground.

Lisa Madigan: Enduring the Rough and Tumble of Illinois Politics
She has built a track record of success as a proactive attorney general

   

Lisa Madigan of Illinois is the nation’s longest-serving woman state attorney general — and the Democrat has endured as the top legal officer in a state with deep budget troubles and a long-standing reputation for corruption.  

Dana Young, a Republican Force in Florida
The conservative state House majoirity leader has higher ambitions

Dana Young was inspired by Ronald Reagan to become a Republican and she's now the Florida House majority leader with an eye on a state Senate seat. (Photo courtesy Florida House of Representatives)

A chance to attend President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address in 1985 steered a congressional intern toward Republican politics, even though she came from a family that had been a force in the Florida Democratic Party for generations.  

Struck by Reagan’s ability to bring people together, "at that moment, I became a Republican,” said Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young. Now, at 51, Young is an attorney and conservative power-broker who has political ambitions in her home state.  

Felicia Marcus: Controlling the Spigot in California
She directs a crucial policy intersection in a state battling drought

Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the California Water Resources Control Board, must please an array of competing interests. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Someone who likes to make enemies would be hard-pressed to find a more perfect job than running the agency that tells folks in parched California that they can’t water their lawns.  

But Felicia Marcus, who has that job, says she doesn’t like to make enemies. She says she likes to listen.  

Gina Raimondo's Pension Reform Draws Cheers and Jeers
Rhode Island governor shies away from quick fixes

Gov. Gina Raimondo previously served a term as treasurer of Rhode Island where she spearheaded efforts to reform the state's pension system. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)

It’s true that Gina Raimondo is the first female governor of the state of Rhode Island, but that’s not what she’s most known for.  

What landed Raimondo on Fortune’s list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders  — which also includes Pope Francis and Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is the same as what left many retirees in her state fearful for their futures: an overhaul of the state’s pension system.  

Oregon’s Tina Kotek Downplays Gay Milestone
'People have worse comments about me as a politician'

Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland, left, deflects talk of a possible gubernatorial run but doesn't rule it out. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

When Tina Kotek was a graduate student at the University of Washington in the mid 1990s, she applied for married student housing with the woman who was her partner. The school refused her application, and Kotek filed a discrimination suit, which she lost.

But then, as president of the graduate student government, Kotek was able to get the university to change its rules and allow housing access for domestic partners.

Nevada's Pistol-Packing Michele Fiore Aims for Congress
'Does my firearm make my tukhus look big?'

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a candidate for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District seat, looks through her "2016 Walk the Talk 2nd Amendment Calendar." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LAS VEGAS — “Does my firearm make my tukhus look big?” Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore asks with a laugh as she removes her “very sleek Glock 43” from behind her back and puts it on her kitchen table.

Brooklyn-born Fiore grew up in a Democratic family and still identifies with some of that party’s issues, such as gay rights, even as she made a name for herself as a Republican in her adopted state of Nevada. 

Maura Healey Targets ‘Ridiculous’ Gun Culture
First openly gay attorney general says civil rights should be on everyone’s agenda

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is a former basketball player, prosecutor and private attorney. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for EMILY's List)

Maura Healey has one word to describe the gun lobby — ridiculous.

The Massachusetts attorney general says it’s “ridiculous” the National Rifle Association has so much control over gun rights debates. “Ridiculous” that Congress won’t allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence as a public health issue. And “ridiculous” that people who are a danger to themselves and others can get guns.