Influential Women

For Colorado’s Cynthia Coffman, Defending Sovereignty Is Not Easy
"We sometimes end up defending causes that we don’t support, but that’s our job."

Cynthia Coffman has had a long career in law in Georgia and Colorado. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP file photo)

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s firm belief in the sovereignty of states and her determination to defend it at all costs have placed her in a few difficult positions.

Since becoming attorney general in 2014, Coffman, a Republican, has had to defend Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws, which she opposed before voters approved it. Last year, she joined two dozen states in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, leading to tensions with Colorado's Democratic governor who supports the plan.

Flores' Top Issue Reminds Voters of Controversy
'Education is the golden ticket,' says Florida state senator Anitere Flores

Anitere Flores, introduced at the Republican National Committee town hall meetings as a "rising star" talks about her goal as Republican. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

When Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores is asked about her greatest accomplishments, she immediately turns to her work on education — the same issue her opponents turn to when attacking her.  

Education is one of several areas where Flores has had an impact during her dozen years in the Florida legislature. From the time she first won election as a state representative in 2004, Flores caught the attention of leaders in her party and was selected, as a freshman, to serve on the prestigious budget conference committee.  

Kamala Harris Aims to Make History in California, Again
State attorney general could be second ever African-American woman in Senate

Kamala Harris was the first woman, the first African-American and the first person of South-Asian descent to be elected attorney general in California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Variety file photo)

Kamala Harris broke down barriers in California politics during a decades-long career in criminal justice. In 2016, she’s on track to do so again — this time on the national stage.  

A career that began in the Alameda County district attorney's office is now poised to take Harris — if things go right this November — to the United States Senate.  

Lisa Madigan: Enduring the Rough and Tumble of Illinois Politics
She has built a track record of success as a proactive attorney general

   

Lisa Madigan of Illinois is the nation’s longest-serving woman state attorney general — and the Democrat has endured as the top legal officer in a state with deep budget troubles and a long-standing reputation for corruption.  

Dana Young, a Republican Force in Florida
The conservative state House majoirity leader has higher ambitions

Dana Young was inspired by Ronald Reagan to become a Republican and she's now the Florida House majority leader with an eye on a state Senate seat. (Photo courtesy Florida House of Representatives)

A chance to attend President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union address in 1985 steered a congressional intern toward Republican politics, even though she came from a family that had been a force in the Florida Democratic Party for generations.  

Struck by Reagan’s ability to bring people together, "at that moment, I became a Republican,” said Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young. Now, at 51, Young is an attorney and conservative power-broker who has political ambitions in her home state.  

Gina Raimondo's Pension Reform Draws Cheers and Jeers
Rhode Island governor shies away from quick fixes

Gov. Gina Raimondo previously served a term as treasurer of Rhode Island where she spearheaded efforts to reform the state's pension system. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc)

It’s true that Gina Raimondo is the first female governor of the state of Rhode Island, but that’s not what she’s most known for.  

What landed Raimondo on Fortune’s list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders  — which also includes Pope Francis and Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is the same as what left many retirees in her state fearful for their futures: an overhaul of the state’s pension system.  

Oregon’s Tina Kotek Downplays Gay Milestone
'People have worse comments about me as a politician'

Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, D-Portland, left, deflects talk of a possible gubernatorial run but doesn't rule it out. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

When Tina Kotek was a graduate student at the University of Washington in the mid 1990s, she applied for married student housing with the woman who was her partner. The school refused her application, and Kotek filed a discrimination suit, which she lost.

But then, as president of the graduate student government, Kotek was able to get the university to change its rules and allow housing access for domestic partners.

Nevada's Pistol-Packing Michele Fiore Aims for Congress
'Does my firearm make my tukhus look big?'

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a candidate for Nevada's 3rd Congressional District seat, looks through her "2016 Walk the Talk 2nd Amendment Calendar." (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LAS VEGAS — “Does my firearm make my tukhus look big?” Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore asks with a laugh as she removes her “very sleek Glock 43” from behind her back and puts it on her kitchen table.

Brooklyn-born Fiore grew up in a Democratic family and still identifies with some of that party’s issues, such as gay rights, even as she made a name for herself as a Republican in her adopted state of Nevada. 

From Top Lieutenant to Lt. Governor
Minnesota’s Tina Smith may go for the top job next

If Tina Smith decides to run for Minnesota governor, "she would be considered a front-runner right off the bat,” a party leader said. (Aaron Lavinsky/AP/Star Tribune)

Tina Smith had never held an elected office when Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton asked her to be his running mate in 2014 – and that may have been to her advantage.

That’s because before she was Dayton’s lieutenant governor, she was his chief of staff, a role in which she had the kind of relationship with the governor that assured she’d be more than a sidekick.

Passing on a Reality TV Show, Endorsing a Reality TV Candidate
Florida AG Pam Bondi's support revives controversy over Trump U

Bondi introduces Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Tampa on Monday. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

When she was an assistant state attorney, Pam Bondi says she was approached by TV producers with an offer to star in her own reality show, and over the years, has turned down multiple job offers from cable news, too.  

The 50-year-old Republican did, however, make national news on Monday by endorsing reality TV veteran Donald Trump for president ahead of her state's Tuesday primary: “Donald and I have been friends for many years,” she said at a rally in Tampa, where he called her “the most popular person in Florida, by far."