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What An All-Female Delegation Says About N.H.

Maggie Hassan was elected governor of New Hampshire on Tuesday, as the state also voted in the first all-female congressional delegation. (AP)

The 2012 elections will be remembered for the pivotal role female voters played in re-electing President Obama. But in New Hampshire, it will be remembered as the year women swept all major races.

Democratic Congresswomen-elect Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter will join Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte in the nation's first all-female congressional delegation.

But another Granite State woman who won big Tuesday, Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan, is quick to stress that putting women in top offices is nothing new here.

"We have a history of electing women, and that's partly because we have such a wonderful tradition and culture of citizen participation in all aspects of life," she says.

In 1999, New Hampshire was the first state to have a female governor, Senate president and speaker of the House at the same time. In 2008, New Hampshire elected a female majority to its state Senate.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, says this week's sweep in New Hampshire may be the biggest milestone for women in politics since Californians sent Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

"Here you have that next big thing, which is a state that is comfortable to be represented by a 100-percent female delegation," Walsh says.

The women currently in New Hampshire's delegation, Democrat Shaheen and Republican Ayotte, are the only split-party pair of women ever to represent a state in the U.S. Senate. Shaheen is also the first woman ever to be elected both governor and senator. She says New Hampshire's history of female leaders boils down to one thing.

"It really speaks to voters in New Hampshire and their ability to make decisions regardless of gender," Shaheen says.

Shaheen is up for re-election in 2014. She emailed supporters about New Hampshire's all-female sweep, closing with a fundraising pitch. Ayotte, meanwhile, noted that one glass ceiling does remain.

"We haven't had a woman president yet, but here in New Hampshire, it's clear that people are going to judge you based on your qualifications, and that's all we can ask," she says.

New Hampshire was the first state to back a woman in a major party presidential primary, Hillary Clinton in 2008. Come 2016, any number of women may run for president. Expect New Hampshire to give them a fair shot.

Copyright 2014 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.nhpr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And the 2012 elections will be remembered for the pivotal role women voters played in re-electing President Obama, but also in New Hampshire, 2012 will be remembered this year as women swept all the major races. New Hampshire Public Radio's Josh Rogers reports.

JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: Late on election night, it was deep into a victory party for Democratic Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster. Fifty-four year old Richard Longley sized up the mood.

RICHARD LONGLEY: There's a lot of estrogen in the air in New Hampshire.

ROGERS: Longley was noting the significance of New Hampshire's decision to send Kuster and fellow Democrat Carol Shea-Porter to Congress. They will join senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte in the nation's first all-female congressional delegation. But another Granite State woman who won big Tuesday, Governor-elect Maggie Hassan, was quick to stress that putting women in top offices is nothing new in New Hampshire.

GOVERNOR MAGGIE HASSAN: We have a history of electing women, and that's partly because we have such a wonderful tradition and culture of citizen participation in all aspects of life.

ROGERS: In 1999, New Hampshire was the first state to have a female governor, Senate president and speaker of the House at the same time. In 2008, New Hampshire elected a female majority to its state Senate. Debbie Walsh, directs the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. She says this week's sweep in New Hampshire may be the biggest milestone for women in politics since Californians sent Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

DEBBIE WALSH: Here you have that next big thing, which is a state that is comfortable to be represented by a 100-percent female delegation.

ROGERS: The women currently in New Hampshire's delegation, Democrat Shaheen and Republican Ayotte, are the only split-party pair of women ever to represent a state in the U.S. Senate. Shaheen is also the first woman ever to be elected both governor and senator. She says New Hampshire's history of female leaders boils down to one thing.

SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN: It really speaks to voters in New Hampshire and their ability to make decisions regardless of gender.

ROGERS: Shaheen is up for re-election in 2014. She emailed supporters about New Hampshire's all-female sweep, closing with a fundraising pitch. Ayotte, meanwhile, noted that one glass ceiling does remain.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: We haven't had a woman president yet, but here in New Hampshire, it's clear that people are going to judge you based on your qualifications, and that's all we can ask.

ROGERS: New Hampshire was the first state to back a woman in a major party presidential primary, Hillary Clinton in 2008. Come 2016, any number of women may run for president. Expect New Hampshire to give them a fair shot. For NPR News, I'm Josh Rogers in Concord.

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SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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