A woman has been elected senate minority leader in the North Dakota legislature for the first time in state history.
The roles of senate majority leader, house minority leader and house majority leader, an especially powerful position, continue to be filled exclusively by men for 127 years and counting.
State Sen. Joan Heckaman, a Democrat from New Rockford, was recently elected senate minority leader by the other members of her party. The milestone wasn’t mentioned in newspaper accounts of Heckaman’s election.
Historically Democrats have put more women in leadership positions than Republicans have, according to research by the Legislative Council provided to Mean Read.
Since 1889, there have been 13 instances of Democratic women in legislative leadership roles, compared to 9 for Republicans.
Women have presided over the senate and house, and have been caucus leaders. But they have never served as minority/majority leader in either chamber, until now. It took until 2016.
“Sometimes I think we get the perception that women have made great strides, but I don’t know that we really feel that,” says state Rep. Kathy Hogan, a Democrat from Fargo.
She offers an interesting tidbit: For the first time, women outnumber men in the Democratic wing of the state house. That’s probably a first for either party.
“Even though we are a super-minority, we have some unique history going on,” she said.
For a full list of women in leadership positions in the state legislature from 1889 to present, here’s a handy PDF.