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The floor of the California Assembly. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
By ARIEL GANS and SAMEEA KAMAL, CalMatters
While votes are still being counted, it appears that the next Legislature will include the most women and LGBTQ members ever. Advocacy groups are already celebrating, but how much difference will the diversity make in policy?
Leading up to Election Day, advocacy groups were predicting — or at least hoping — that California voters would elect record numbers of women and LGBTQ people to the Legislature.
Based on the results so far, it appears that history will be made — and that the state Assembly and Senate will look more like California than ever before.
With eight openly LGBTQ candidates winning, including four potential new lawmakers, plus four holdovers, the Legislature is on track to have at least 10% LGBTQ representation for the first time ever, according to Equality California. If that happens, California would be the first state to achieve proportional LGBTQ+ representation in its legislature — and the number could go as high as 14 of the 120 legislators.
And the number of female lawmakers is headed toward at least 43, a record, and as many as 52, according to Close the Gap California. This past session, women made up 39 of 120 legislators — up from a recent low of 26 seats in 2017.
The likely surge in diversity is partly due to new districts and open seats that created a window of opportunity for new candidates.
In the June primary, an unprecedented 113 women ran for legislative seats, 38% of all candidates, and 80 made it to November. In districts without an incumbent, 61% of female candidates advanced out of the primary — nearly double the success rate of 33% in 2020, according to Close the Gap, a political advocacy group that works to elect Democratic women.
Nine legislative races on the Nov. 8 ballot featured two women running against one another, including Jasmeet Bains, a Democratic state Assembly candidate in Bakersfield, who would become the first South Asian woman in the Legislature.
“The reality is women win just as often as men when they run,” said Susannah Delano, Close the Gap’s executive director. “What we’re seeing now is more women running, therefore competing on the field and getting elected in equal numbers.”
Also this year, a record number of LGBTQ+ candidates ran for office in California — 178, more than any other state, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. That wasn’t by chance, said Samuel Garrett-Pate, managing director of external affairs for Equality California, a political advocacy and civil rights group. It spent the past two years working to recruit and support LGBTQ+ candidates, and pushing for new districts that would empower LGBTQ+ voters.
Read more of ‘Will This Be the Most Diverse California Legislature Ever?’ on CalMatters.
CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.
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