Across the country Republicans are facing strong challenges in gubernatorial races, many of them from women. Currently, Democrats hold 21 governorships, and are likely to gain an additional five to control a majority of state houses, according to the Washington Post. Though the country’s focus is currently on the highly competitive Senate races, where Democrats recently lost their majority in the Senate with the death of Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) last week, the gubernatorial races also have very important implications for the country. For example, four of the last five presidents were former governors, and governors can be extremely helpful in raising support and campaign funds for a presidential candidate, according to the Post. In addition, we have seen in California how a governor can make a huge difference in passing important legislation such as the Reproductive Privacy Act, which is a safeguard to protect the right to abortion in the state of California in the event that Roe v. Wade is ever overturned by the Supreme Court. In Michigan, Democratic candidate Jennifer Granholm is poised to become the state’s first woman governor, partly by attracting moderate Republican women because of her stance on health care and education, according to the Associated Press. Granholm, currently the state’s attorney general, also supports abortion rights. A poll released today by the Detroit Free Press has Granholm is the lead by 13 points, with women and African Americans overwhelmingly supporting her over her opponent, current Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus. Several states with close races involving women candidates include Kansas, Maryland, and Hawaii. In Kansas, pro-choice Democratic candidate Kathleen Sebelius is ahead in the polls, according to the Wichita Eagle, but the race is still considered a toss-up. Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) is in a dead heat with Republican Robert Ehrlich according to the most recent Washington Post poll. Townsend would be the first woman governor of Maryland if she wins. Ehrlich’s opposition to gun control, especially in the wake of the recent DC-area sniper attacks, has lost him some support among African Americans and women, the Post reports. In Hawaii, two women are competing to be the first woman governor in the state’s history. Democrat Mazie Hirono, the current Lt. Gov., is neck-and-neck with Republican opponent Linda Lingle, according to the Post. Lingle has outspent Hirono by more than 2 to 1, but the governor seat has been held by Democrats for 40 years, and Hirono has been endorsed by the Hawaii Women’s Political Caucus, the Sierra Club, and the pro-choice EMILY’s List.