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New Hampshire Among States With Female Senate Leader

Allegra Boverman for NHPR


New Hampshire's Senate president, Donna Soucy, is among at least 34 women nationwide to hold a top legislative spot this year. It's a new role for her but not an unfamiliar scenario for the state.

In 1999, New Hampshire became the first state to have a female governor (Jeanne Shaheen), Senate president (Beverly Hollingworth) and House speaker (Donna Sytek) at the same time. Ten years later, it became the first state to have a female majority in its state Senate. In 2013, New Hampshire became the first state to have an all-female congressional delegation when the state was represented in the Senate by Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, and in the House by Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster.

Shaheen, who started in the state Senate, later became the first woman in the country to serve both as governor and U.S. senator. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, also a former state senator, became the second when she defeated Ayotte.

A review by The Associated Press found that despite the wave of successful female candidates last November, women made only modest gains in legislative leadership positions. The 34 spots they'll hold — with two spots in Alaska still undecided — represents a slight increase from the 30 positions held by women last year.

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According to the New Hampshire Women's Foundation, women gained seats in both the New Hampshire House and Senate in November, and now hold 34 percent of the 424 seats. But there has been a growing disparity between the two major parties. While a record number of Democratic women are serving in the House, the number of Republican women is the lowest in three decades.

The foundation also noted significant geographic variation in the percentage of women serving in the 400-member house. Grafton and Strafford counties are the only two counties where women make up at least half the representatives. Belknap County has the lowest percentage of women at 11 percent.

-- Holly Ramer, Associated Press

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