Ten who became the first female AG

Legal News Line Jun. 18, 2010, 2:00am

Primary victories by females in closely watched races have some in the media wondering if 2010 is another "Year of the Woman." Kamala Harris is hoping so, as she is attempting to become California's first female attorney general. Legal Newsline takes a look at 10 women who bucked the trend and unseated men from the AG's office in their state for the first time. Four are still in office. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley succeeded her former boss in the Middlesex County District Attorney's office, Thomas Reilly, to become Massachusetts' first female attorney general in 2007. Her popularity stalled, however, earlier this year when state Sen. Scott Brown defeated her in a special election for a U.S. Senate seat. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan spent four years as a state senator before upending Republican Joe Birkett by 3 percent in the 2002 attorney general race. She backed that up by winning in a landslide four years later and is running for re-election this year. Like Coakley, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson succeeded her old boss to become attorney general. Mike Hatch, under whom she served as a deputy attorney general, decided to run for governor in 2006, and, after a close primary win, Swanson gained more than 53 percent of the general election vote to replace him. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills was already a popular politician in her state before she succeeded Steven Rowe. Voters made her a district attorney three times and put her in the state House of Representatives four times, and in 2008 the Legislature decided she should be the state's attorney general. Kelly Ayotte can help contribute to females' successes in high-profile races this year if she is successful in her bid for U.S. Senate. Ayotte retired as New Hampshire's attorney general in July after three years on the job. Deborah Poritz was both New Jersey's first female attorney general and first female Supreme Court chief justice. She began serving as attorney general in 1994 after being nominated by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Whitman then nominated her to the Supreme Court in 1996, where Poritz stayed until 2006. Two other females -- Zulima Farber and Anne Milgram -- have become New Jersey Attorney General since Poritz. Gale Norton sandwiched stints at the U.S. Department of the Interior around becoming Colorado's first female attorney general in 1991. She stayed at the post in 1999, unsuccesfully running for U.S. Senate in 1996. Prior to serving as attorney general, she was Associate Solicitor of the Interior Department. In 2001, she became the first female Secretary of the Interior. Patricia Madrid began her career of firsts in 1978 when she was elected as a district court judge in New Mexico, becoming the first female to do so. Twenty years later, she was New Mexico's first female attorney general and she was re-elected in 2002. Four years later, she lost a painfully close race against incumbent Heather Wilson for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Wilson won by 875 votes. Janet Napolitano is currently the first female and third overall U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, but she was also the first female Arizona Attorney General when she took office in 1999. In 2003, she left that post and became Arizona's governor. The state has elected four female governors since 1988 and only one male. Christine Gregoire spent 12 years as Washington's attorney general after being elected in 1993. She never faced a close fight as attorney general, then won the 2004 vote for governor by less than 200 votes. She has since been re-elected, beating 2004 opponent Dino Rossi. She's the second female governor in the state's history.

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