Diane Denish, who was elected New Mexico's first female lieutenant governor in 2002, is now seeking the state's top job. She said the number of women running nationwide "sends a great message to women and girls that anything is possible."
Because her Republican opponent, Susana Martinez, is also a woman, the state is guaranteed to make history. In a statement, Martinez said she appreciates the "historic significance of this election, as well as the elections taking place in other states."
Many of the female candidates, including Whitman and Martinez, have downplayed the gender issue in their own campaigns — arguing that it doesn't matter whether a man or woman is victorious, as long as whoever takes the job gets results.
"That, to me, doesn't matter as much," said Sarah Franks, a 34-year-old teacher who voted for Haley, but not because she's a woman. "I mean I think it's neat, but that doesn't matter as much as just getting some new blood in the system."
Contributing: Ron Barnett of The Greenville (S.C.) News.