Kay A. Orr

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Kay A. Orr
36th Governor of Nebraska
In office
January 9, 1987 – January 9, 1991
Lieutenant William E. Nichol
Preceded by Bob Kerrey
Succeeded by Ben Nelson
Treasurer of Nebraska
In office
June 15, 1981 – 1987
Governor Charles Thone
Bob Kerrey
Preceded by Frank Marsh
Succeeded by Frank Marsh
Personal details
Born Kay Avonne Stark
(1939-01-02) January 2, 1939 (age 76)
Burlington, Iowa
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) William Dayton Orr (1957-2013)[1]
Children 2
Alma mater University of Iowa

Kay A. Orr (born January 2, 1939) was the 36th governor of Nebraska and served from 1987 to 1991. She is a member of the Republican Party.

Personal life[edit]

Orr was born as Kay Avonne Stark in Burlington, Iowa. Her mother, Sadie, was active in local politics, while her father, Ralph, was a Burlington city council member and farm implements dealer.[2] She attended the University of Iowa from 1956 to 1957. She married William Dayton Orr on September 26, 1957, and they had two children, John William and Suzanne.[3] She moved with her family to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1963. Shortly after moving there, she began volunteering as a Republican Party worker. She supported such politicians as Richard M. Nixon, Carl Curtis, and Roman Hruska, and in 1969 was named "Outstanding Young Republican Woman" in Nebraska.[4]

Bill Orr died from complications of COPD on May 5, 2013.[5]

Political career[edit]

Appointed to fill a midterm vacancy, Orr served as Nebraska state treasurer from 1981 to 1982, and, as she was subsequently elected in her own right in 1982, continued to serve to 1986, becoming the first woman ever to be elected to a statewide constitutional office in Nebraska.[6]

In 1986, Orr secured the Republican nomination for Nebraska governor by winning an eight-way primary.[7]

Republican gubernatorial primary results, May 13, 1986[8][9]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Kay Orr 75,914 39.41
Republican Kermit Brashear 60,308 31.30
Republican Nancy Hoch 42,649 22.14
Republican Everett Sileven 4,281 2.22
Republican Paul Rosberg 4,280 2.22
Republican Monte Taylor 3,276 1.70
Republican Roger Yant 682 .35
Republican Chuck Loos 658 .34
Republican Write-in 601 .31

In the primary, Orr carried 81 of Nebraska's 93 counties including Douglas and Lancaster, Brashear carried 9 counties, and Hoch carried 2 counties. [10]


In the 1986 general election, she defeated former Lincoln Mayor Helen Boosalis in the first U.S. gubernatorial election in which both major party candidates were women, winning by a 53% to 47% margin. Although a Republican woman, Vesta M. Roy, served as the unelected acting governor of New Hampshire from December 1982 to January 1983, Orr was the first Republican woman to be elected governor in the United States.[11] To date, she is the only woman to have served as governor of Nebraska.[4]

Orr was narrowly defeated for re-election as governor in 1990 by Democrat Ben Nelson. Nelson's two main attacks on her gubernatorial record were her support of a proposed low-level nuclear waste dump and her raising taxes.

Orr has twice served as a presidential elector for the state of Nebraska, casting one of the state's five electoral votes. In the 2004 presidential election, she voted for George W. Bush; in the 2012 election, for Mitt Romney.

References[edit]

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