With all the attention being given to the candidates for president in 1984, you could forget that there are also elections being held this year. The results of these local contests won't say much about opinion on national issues. But they already give evidence of how certain attitudes in the nation are changing. The most notable change concerns the election of women to high executive offices.
Recently in San Francisco, Democrat Salah Burton was elected to Congress. Her victory by itself was not so remarkable--there have been female House members for a long time--but it does mean that San Francisco now is largely governed and represented by women: its other House member is Barbara Boxer, its mayor is Dianne Feinstein and its council (called the board of supervisors) is headed by Wendy Nelder. Other major cities have elected women as mayors: Kathy Whitmire won in Houston in 1981 and Jane Byrne in Chicago in 1979.
As for governors, women are the major contenders in two of the three gubernatorial elections to be held this year. In Kentucky, Lt. Gov. Martha Layne Collins won the Democratic primary May 24 and is favored to beat former major league pitcher Jim Bunning, the Republican nominee, in November. In Mississippi former lieutenant governor Evelyn Gandy is a strong contender in the Democratic primary. Only in Louisiana is there no major female candidate: this is a contest between the current governor and his predecessor.
This success of female candidates reflects a widespread change in attitudes. Ten years ago the election of a woman to a major executive position was unheard of. Voters were willing to elect an occasional woman to Congress or the city council. But they weren't willing to give women the command over a police force that a mayor or governor has. Then in 1974 Ella Grasso was elected governor of Connecticut, and two years later Dixy Lee Ray was elected governor of Washington. Today female candidates can be found running for almost all offices at all points on the political spectrum. It is to date a fairly modest success story, but a success story nonetheless.