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Janet Napolitano was the Democratic governor of Arizona (2003-2009) before becoming secretary of Homeland Security under Barack Obama (2009-2013).
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Janet Napolitano ran for the governorship of Arizona in 2002 as a pro-choice centrist, winning by a very slim margin. During her campaign, she identified the state's challenges as education, children, border control and rapid growth rate. As governor, Napolitano converted a $1 billion deficit in 2003 to a $300 million surplus without raising taxes. She supported voluntary all-day kindergarten programs and historic pay raises and training for school teachers,
and directed school boards to issue construction plans for building 21st century schools. Governor Napolitano was also an outspoken critic of the federal government's immigration policies, and pushed for tougher penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. Additionally, she implemented one of the first state homeland security strategies in the nation and opened a counter-terrorism center.
Napolitano also made a reputation for herself by setting a record for the total number of vetoes in a single session (58), and during her second term as governor, she issued a record 115 vetoes. Among these was a bill to crack down on employers who hire illegal aliens and authorize law-enforcement officials to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges for just being in the state. Napolitano explained that she believed the bill was too weak at penalizing guilty employers, and that enforcing the trespassing law would have overwhelmed police.
On January 11, 2008, Janet Napolitano endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama for the U.S. presidency. After the election, she was appointed to the Obama-Biden transition team, and in January 2009, she was nominated and confirmed as U.S. secretary of Homeland Security. While serving as secretary, she forged new partnerships with international allies and expanded information sharing with federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies.
However, in her first year as secretary, Napolitano suffered from several bouts of "misspeak." In April 2009, she incorrectly claimed that the September 11, 2001, terrorists had entered the United States from Canada, provoking an angry response from the Canadian ambassador. That same month, the Department of Homeland Security produced an internal threat assessment report that cited "disgruntled returning military veterans" as possible targets for recruitment by right-wing extremist groups. Napolitano made multiple apologies for any offense experienced by veterans in the assessment, and promised to meet to discuss the report. The American Legion criticized the report while the Veterans of Foreign Wars praised it, though the VFW agreed that it could have been worded differently.
In late December 2009, in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley discussing the attempted terrorist attack of the "underwear bomber," who tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a flight landing in Detroit, Michigan, Napolitano claimed that "the system worked." She later indicated that her remarks had been taken out of context and that the system had indeed failed, adding that extensive review was under way.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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