BenIndy Editor: Full (and prideful) disclosure: Susannah Delano is my beloved – and highly talented – daughter. 🙂 – R.S.
Legislature’s ‘Great Resignation’ provides great opportunity for women
|By Susannah Delano, Special to CalMatters, February 15, 2022 Susannah Delano is executive director of Close the Gap California, a nonprofit organization that recruits and prepares progressive women to run for state Legislature.
We’re witnessing the “Great Resignation, Capitol Edition,” with more than a quarter of California’s 120 legislators exiting the building in 2022.
Why are we losing so many legislators in one year? It’s a combination of factors – redistricting, which left many incumbents with no place to run; a domino effect of open seats as members seek new roles; and the reckoning of term limit reform passed in 2012.
Where some might see chaos, we see opportunity.
The 2022 election marks the start of California’s “Great Opportunity” to elect a Legislature that truly reflects the people it serves.
California has a reputation for leading the nation forward on critical issues including climate change, equal pay, reproductive health access, long-term care, minimum wage, family leave, early education and more.
But when it comes to women’s representation – California falls short.
Only 37 legislators – less than a third – are women. Of the 37 women serving, 28 are Democrats and 9 are Republicans. California ranks 28rd in the nation for our percentage of women legislators.
Our goal is nothing short of parity for women in the California Legislature, this decade. When I briefed political insiders on that audacious goal years ago, many of them gave me a virtual pat on the head and wished me luck. But in 2022, that audacious dream is starting to look a lot more real.
In my 20 years of working to elect more racially representative, progressive women to office, I’ve never witnessed a higher caliber of candidates step up to run at the state level. As we’ve worked with the majority of these women, I can tell you they are experienced, savvy, and ready to win.
In the fight for equal representation, we are all too used to incremental progress at best. But this year, the hard work of identifying, encouraging and preparing women to run is paying off at an unprecedented scale.
With musical chairs ensuring the Legislature will lose at least eight of its women incumbents by year’s end, this historically robust wave of reinforcements is exactly what might ensure women’s numbers continue to climb in 2022.
Common sense and research tell us that running for an open seat is the likeliest path to victory for a newcomer. What’s unprecedented about 2022 is the volume of open seats, and the number of accomplished women who are ready to win.
In the 35 legislative seats open so far in 2022, an astounding 45 female candidates with the capacity to run competitive campaigns have launched so far. In nine districts, both of the top two contenders are women.
These women arrive with impressive backgrounds and track records of service to their communities. They’re nonprofit directors, nurses, labor and tech leaders, small business owners and entrepreneurs. They’ve served on city councils, school boards, and local and state commissions.
The women running for open seats in 2022 are overwhelmingly Democratic, and also present historic levels of diversity. More than 70% are women of color, and many are LGBTQ+.
In this time of legislative turnover, who comes next will determine what comes next. The nation will look to the pipeline of leaders and innovative policy solutions we battle-test here in the years to come.
While we are losing some extremely effective legislators in 2022, as long as well-prepared women keep stepping up, and stakeholders are brave enough to put their resources where their values align, voters will have the opportunity to elect new voices and transform the Capitol’s decision-making tables.
The women of 2022 are the future many of us have dreamed of for decades.
They will need to overcome a disproportionate number of barriers along their paths to election. But today, their sheer number, talent and determination should inspire us to look beyond the Capitol’s Great Resignation, and recognize this moment for what it is: California’s Great Opportunity to put the world’s fifth largest economy on a fast-track to reflective democracy.