Christine Todd Whitman

updated 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Christine Todd Whitman was elected governor of New Jersey in 1993, no one thought she would turn into a one-woman political slogan. But in a year of right-wing arias, dozens of candidates happily declared themselves "Whitman Republicans"—socially liberal, fiscally conservative. For the most part, her magic rubbed off: 18 of the 22 candidates she stumped for were winners. What makes her such a cutting-edge figure? Whitman, 48, doesn't hedge. "I am a woman. It attracts a little more attention."

That it does. While she championed such classic Republican positions as lower taxes and smaller government, she made no attempt to hide her pro-choice stance or her support of gay rights—views that set her apart from another GOP winner, Newt Gingrich. "There are a lot of things he said with which I agree." Whitman says. "But I don't agree on others. I would never suggest orphanages for children of welfare mothers."

Whitman learned politics from her late parents, Webster and Eleanor Todd, who were prominent GOP leaders during the 1950s. But family came first. In 1974 she wed John Whitman, now 50, a financial consultant; they have two children, Kate, 17, and Taylor, 15. The former county freeholder, who almost defeated Bill Bradley in the 1990 U.S Senate race, is now being touted as the GOP's first female vice presidential candidate. That's "silly." she says. "I want to do the best job I can for New Jersey." Spoken like a true candidate.

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