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By W. Gardner Selby December 26, 2013

Two women running for top state offices isn't unusual, though a November pair of Davis, Van de Putte would be

The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party declared in a December email blast soliciting contributions that the Texas party is making history.

"This is the first time in Texas history -- and only the fourth time in United States history -- that two women are running for the top spots," Gilberto Hinojosa said.

He was referring to the Democratic state senators who have filed to run in 2014 for governor (Wendy Davis of Fort Worth) and lieutenant governor (Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio).

Is this the first time that Democratic women have sought these offices in the same year? No, we quickly found. In 2010, San Antonio physician Alma Ludivina Aguado unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor, losing in the party primary, and Linda Chavez-Thompson was the party's pick for lieutenant governor.

But what about women seeking the top office in a general election? Since Davis has a little-known opponent in the March 2014 primary,  Reynaldo "Ray" Madrigal, and Van de Putte is unopposed, it's likely that both Davis and Van de Putte will both be nominated and appear back to back, so to speak, on the November 2014 general-election ballot. A party spokesman, Emmanuel Garcia, said by phone that this is what Hinojosa was underscoring.

A party spokeswoman, Ada Ortega, told us that Hinojosa’s first/fourth declaration was rooted in a Nov. 23, 2013, Associated Press news article on Van de Putte declaring her candidacy for lieutenant governor.

The AP story hinted at the expectation that Democrats will nominate Davis and Van de Putte, stating: "It is the first time in Texas history women have led a major party's ticket for the state's top offices, and only the fourth time in U.S. history." By email, the reporter who wrote the story, Austin-based Will Weissert, told us he drew that conclusion based on a July 26, 2013, press release from the New Jersey-based Center for American Women and Politics.

That release said that just twice before, in Illinois in 1994 and Kentucky in 1999, major-party tickets were led by two women. At the time of the release, the third instance was about to be New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono running for governor with union executive Milly Silva as her lieutenant governor running mate, the release said. (The pair lost in a November 2013 landslide to Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.)

In 1994, the center said, Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dawn Clark Netsch chose state Sen. Penny Severns as her running mate. In 1999, Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Peppy Martin ran with a Taylor County school board member. Both tickets lost.

By telephone, the center’s director, Debbie Walsh, stressed that in the three previous instances, the nominees ran together as a ticket. Texas doesn't do it that way; the Texas governor and lieutenant governor each stand election on their own.

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Walsh, who said the center has collected information on women running for office since its 1971 launch, said the center did not look into how often, if at all, two women simultaneously sought to be nominated in a primary for a state’s top two offices.

At our request, the center searched for such instances since 2000, which Walsh said was the earliest year for which information across the states was easily accessed.

Walsh then emailed us a chart indicating that two women or more have run in primaries for governor and lieutenant governor in Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas (as noted above) and Wisconsin.

All told, Walsh said, if Davis and Van de Putte win their respective nominations, the two will be the nation’s fourth all-female top-of-the-ticket in November. By phone, party spokesman Garcia said Hinojosa could have clarified that he was referring to the historic significance of Davis and Van de Putte as November nominees.

After we published this article, the Associated Press noted in a Jan. 1, 2014, news article that in Arizona in 1998, women captured the five top state offices. According to Arizona’s Nov. 23, 1998, canvass of that voting, the victors were: Republicans Jane Dee Hull, governor, and Betsey Bayless, secretary of state; Democrat Janet Napolitano, attorney general; and Republicans Carol Springer, state treasurer, and Lisa Graham Keegan, superintendent of public instruction. Then again, Arizona has no lieutenant governor. Voters in 2010 rejected a proposal to create the office.

Our ruling

Hinojosa said: "This is the first time in Texas history -- and only the fourth time in United States history -- that two women are running for the top spots."

Hinojosa is entirely correct in reference to general elections nationally only if the 1998 victories of two Arizona Republicans are not considered. But two or more women have sought to be nominated for a state’s top elected positions more than 20 times since 2000.

We rate this partly accurate claim as Half True.

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m., Jan. 3, 2014: We updated this article to note that in 1998, women ran and won the top state offices in Arizona. This change did not affect our initial rating.

HALF TRUE – The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Web page, "Texas Democrats Running for Office," Texas Democratic Party (accessed Dec. 11, 2013)

Telephone interview and emails, Ada Ortega, Latino media coordinator, Texas Democratic Party, Dec. 10-11, 2013

News story, "It's official: Van de Putte running for Lt Gov," the Associated Press, Nov. 23, 2013

Press release, "Two Women Top NJ Democratic Ticket Only Third Time in U.S. History that Women Have Shared Ticket for Governor, Lieutenant Governor," Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, July 26, 2013

Telephone interviews, Debbie Walsh, director, Center for American Women and Politics, New Brunswick, N.J., Dec. 11 and 20, 2013

Chart showing instances of two or more women running in party primaries for top state elected positions from 2000 through 2013, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (received by email from Debbie Walsh, Dec. 18, 2013)

Telephone interview, Emmanuel Garcia, communications director, Texas Democratic Party, Dec. 20, 2013

News story, "Two-woman ticket in Texas goes for history in 2014," the Associated Press, Jan. 1, 2014

Document, "State of Arizona Official Canvass," Arizona Secretary of State, Nov. 23, 1998 (accessed Jan. 3, 2014)

News story, "Voters say no to lieutenant governor for Arizona," Tucson Sentinel, Nov. 3, 2010

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More by W. Gardner Selby

Two women running for top state offices isn't unusual, though a November pair of Davis, Van de Putte would be

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