Intro: Coming back after the lunch break, we’re going to start now with a panel on the success of women running for office in the 2018 cycle and what that means going forward. Will that momentum continue? Then there’ll be another short break. And, the final panel of the day, we’ll look at a competitive congressional races in California. Before I introduce the moderator of this panel, I do want to, once again, thank our sponsors, our gold sponsors, the California Association of Realtors and KP public affairs, and our blue sponsors, Keller, Ben Venuti, Nielsen, Merck summer, San Diego gas and electric, southern California gas and the UFCW Western States Council. We could not put this event on without them. So I thank all of the sponsors. Moderator of this panel is Laurel Rosenhall from Cal Matters. She will introduce the panelists and we’ll have time as with the other panels for Q&A at the end. So Laurel…
Laurel Rosenhall: Thank you so much. Quick plug for Cal Matters. If anyone is not familiar with us, we are a nonprofit nonpartisan news outlet. We launched about three years ago. We’re based in Sacramento and our mission is to cover California state government and politics, provide coverage that has been diminished over the years by the changes in the news industry. We publish online at calmatters.org. You can subscribe to our newsletters. We also share our stories with news outlets around the state so you may see our stuff up here in your local newspaper or on your local MPR affiliate. And
I am here with a great panel to talk about the year of the woman question mark. And I will note that all three of our panelists are Democrats. We did reach out to a couple of Republican women and they were not able to come. So we are having a one party conversation up here, but it may be reflective of where things are in California right now as well as kind of what, what happened last year in the election with the overlap between the sort of success of women candidates and the success of the Democrats.
So to my left is Mary Hughes, the Democratic Strategist, who leads Close the Gap California, which recruits women candidates. In the middle is Nicole Boucher, the co-executive director of the California Donor Table, which supports women and people of color progressives running for office. And the third panelist is Amanda Renteria, chair of Emerge America, which trains women candidates. And also the former political director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and also a former gubernatorial candidate herself last year here in California. And former congressional candidate as well.
So the panelists have prepared some sort of brief opening thoughts. And then after that we’ll get into the questions. So Mary, do you want to go first?
Mary Hughes: I would be happy to. Good afternoon everyone. Thanks to IGS for having us. This is a fun year to have this reflection. Other years not so much. So it’s always good in the, in the up years. The question that we were asked is what happened? And what does it, what does it mean?
So for me, and I have the good fortune of having the long view. This is not the first year of the woman I have worked through. So when I look at 2018, I look at it in the shadow of 1992. So when I see it that way, I think of this. What happened is that preparation met opportunity. Because in the intervening years between 1992, which was the last time we elected a large cohort of women to Congress, 24 back then, 36 this time, and now some unusual things happened.
First of all, we thought, great, we have knocked this door down. It’s down and now everything is go and we assumed that more women and more women would come after, and that was not the case. You will recall that in 1994, the Gingrich Revolution occurred. Many of those first time women who were elected were washed out. After that, we had incremental increase in the numbers for three or four cycles and then for almost a dozen years we flat lined.
And in California in our legislature, in between, we were 15 years ago at about a third of the legislature. And as recently as a couple years ago, women in the legislature in California where one in five, so I’m happy to tell you the largest number of new women ever elected to the California legislature, were elected in 2018. So it was indeed a very good year.
But because we have the experience of that joy of 1992 and then the sobering experience of how quickly those numbers can fall back. And then nothing, just a flat line for a long time. The number of organizations that came into being to lift up, train, recruit, prepare, fund, launch, staff, women’s campaigns just grown exponentially. We have filled a perfect continuum for women in California to recruit them, to fund them, to train them. Emerge does a great job. Many of the women’s organizations do a good job in filling that in.
So by the time we got to 2018, the story was if we could find good, talented women and match them with open seats, which is what our focus is at Close the Gap, we could elect them. If it’s a jump ball, we can win it. And so, this was a wonderful demonstration of preparation, meeting opportunity.
Now why do we have a big opportunity? We have a big opportunity, because we had a perfect storm in the national atmosphere for among women. We were angry about such a talented women getting the most votes and losing the race. We were mad that the man who beat her was undeserving and disrespectful. We had a constant poker coming at us in the Me Too revelations over the entire election cycle, one after another after another, and resignations that created more open seats in both the Congress and in the California legislature and women won every one of those open seats in California. So the atmosphere, the national atmosphere was conducive. More women ran, there were more women active. The opportunities increased even in the election cycle. So that added to what we could do.
Does it make a difference? We know that it does. Many of you are researchers. We know that when women are a significant number, usually more than a third of a legislature, they change pretty much everything. They change the priorities of the agenda. The procedures that they propose open up. They’re more inclusive, they’re transparent. They ask for posting schedules online, those kinds of things. Women change the content. And every once in a while, although this is tough because generally party trumps gender, so I don’t want to overstate the case, but occasionally you will find that the women just go off and solve the problem themselves and come back. You saw that in the U.S. Senate with the Farm Bill. They have done that on budgeting matters before.
Does it matter in terms of the policies? It does. Any of you who have watched Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and the stream of legislation that she has brought to the floor having to do with everything from family leave to the number of women on corporate boards, can see what one person can do. A different way to look at what one woman can do is to watch Senator Mitchell and her priorities — Holly Mitchell — with the budget, right? So yes, it matters. The agenda changes, procedures change, content changes.
But I would pose this. There was a great jazz tune. Some of you know it from the 1930s written by Count Basie and the line is “It won’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.” And the reason I love that line is because we can elect a lot of good women, but if they start acclimating to the culture that exists, they will lose the opportunity to have the impact that we in the trenches have been working for for so very long. So whether or not we have the impact we want remains to be seen. We need to get north of a third to begin to have the numbers that matter, but you can see a little bit of it now in the list that I gave you, but I would encourage you to keep your eye on it. We have some more numbers to get, but once we get those numbers, it’s on us to change the culture.
Laurel Rosenhall: Thank you, Mary. Nicole?
Nicole Boucher: Hi everyone. Yeah, my name’s Nicole Boucher. I’m the co-executive director of the California Donor Table. Just going to talk a little bit about the Donor Table first because people are like, hm what is that? The Donor Table, we’re a network of committed donors, philanthropic institutions and labor partners that know that California’s in great hands when women of color, women in new majority communities have the resources and the capacity that they need to engage civically. And that means things like elect candidates that reflect their communities and needs, run for office advance policies that matter in their neighborhoods and have the opportunities to also help co-govern and hold those folks accountable when they’re not doing the things that their communities need them to do.
So what does that look like, what do we do as donors and as philanthropic institutions? You know, we endorse and support progressive candidates that are reflective of their communities. We do that at the state level, the local level, and we also do support the groups that are running federal candidates around the country as well. We support groups to run independent expenditure campaigns if they have a candidate that they really like. We also have a C3 vehicle where we help invest in building the capacities of the groups on the ground in terms of everything from voter engagement strategies to helping with voter data and educating their communities, doing all those things.
So, our work began about 10 years ago. So one of our anchor donor, Steve Phillips, who some of you might know wrote Brown is the New White, was really kind of looking around the country at the under investment that was happening in new majority communities around the country. And that there were places in California that had growing new majority population. So you could look at places like Orange County, the Inland Empire, the Central Valley, San Diego that had this growing potential electorate that were not voting. And why weren’t they voting? They weren’t making investments, there were not the investments there on the ground that those community needed to actually get out there and mobilize the vote. Right? So you didn’t have things like culturally competent voter in language materials. There was not actually a voter file that even identified where these folks lived, how many people were in their household, what ethnic background they were from and all of this other infrastructure that was missing.
So we kind of test piloted Steve’s work and looked and said, well, what if we got together and we started aligning our work with philanthropic institutions, political donors and labor partners, and actually started investing in their civic engagement infrastructure? What might happen over 10 years?
Well, we can look at this last election cycle right now and the data that is literally coming in right now to see that youth turnout went through the roof, Latino voter turnout went through the roof, and these are not mistakes. These are in the same places where this infrastructure got built. These are the communities on the ground that changed the game in California for a lot of the voter engagement strategies that happened there.
So, you know, we worked to basically build kind of these like civic engagement infrastructure, this like weird infrastructure. What does that mean? Right? So candidate development pipeline programs, right? So how do you actually like recruit and train candidates that are in your community to understand like how do you run a campaign? And you know, these two can talk all about that later, but it is not a very simple thing. It was like a very complicated strategy, and guess what, it costs a lot of money to run for office. So like how do local folks actually get the access and the resources that you have to invest in these communities over and over again.
So I’m excited to talk about the gains that we made this year and all the amazing women of color leaders that we got elected. But I did want to point out two things, in terms of our ethos and where we stand in terms of electing women as candidates or people of color .We believe that it’s not enough to just have women run for office or have people of color run for office, right? Because our work is really about advancing reflective democracy, that these folks that are running for office need to reflect the needs and the values, and the priorities of their communities. They need to be in touch with the communities and their constituents. Sounds really basic, right? But as we look at the landscape of electoral politics, how often is that happening?
The second thing that we think that is in order to advance that it’s actually more about than just the candidate. It’s about the entire ecosystem of needs around that. Right? So in order for women and people of color to be able to advance and have progressive values and run for office, like they need to have campaign consultants that are also able to relate to them. You know, they need to have people out there collecting data that are actually collecting data in their neighborhoods and not just in, you know, metro areas or places where they think likely voters actually exist. The people knocking on their doors, they need to be people from their communities, right? They need to, how about speak the same language, like there’s a thought, right? If you actually want to get people out, mobilized to vote. And most importantly, we need to know that we’ve got people that are there when that candidate gets elected so that we can support that candidate that becomes an elected official after they crossed the finish line and they need really good governance strategies to help them actually succeed and thrive in the things that they’re doing.
So for us, we saw 2018 as an exclamation point and not a question mark for us, you know, flipping the seven House seats in places all over the state. Pablo Rodriguez is here for Communities for New California. He’s on the next panel and we’ll tell you about the brilliant Latino voter turnout strategy that he ran with other leaders out there in California. You know, these races were run by groups across the state and these are groups that have been building power for decades in California. So I’m talking about groups like Million Voters Project is a statewide group of Pico, Ace, Chairla, immigrant rights groups, racial justice groups, women’s groups that were running robust field strategies across the state. And many of these organizations were run by women of color. We ran, we won up and down the ballot, you know, from turning Orange County completely blue. At the beginning of 2018, there was along with the vacant seats that came in that election, you know, Sacramento had its, you know, Me Too moment. And that opened some seats up. And we were there to back progressive women of color, like Sydney Kamlager, Maria Elena Durazo, Wendy Carillo and others.
We also had some really significant wins at the local level. In Orange County, there’s a pipeline program there, run by local groups. That pipeline program placed 13 progressive’s into local office. The vast majority of those were women and people of color. Those are the folks as we know too ascend in local office into state legislature and beyond.
And we also ran a slate of DAs across the state, so we supported three black women and Latina running on a reformer agenda as district attorneys. Diana Becton and Contra Costa County one, we supported an independent expenditure of campaigns on the ground, also bundled resources through our firewall of course to support the candidate. And while some of those others didn’t win, what we always emphasize in this is that it’s the long game, it’s more than one cycle and we changed the conversation in California, but what a district attorney could actually do. I’ll stop there.
Laurel Rosenhall: Great. Okay, thanks Nicole .
Amanda Renteria: Yeah, I get excited hearing all of this. So I am chair of Emerge America. We have 415 women that ran across the country and won. In California, 85, 57 of them won. Emerge America has been around for 17 years now and trained 4,000 women, democratic women, to run for office. And they’ve started out of the state and local level. So for a long period of time they’ve been doing the work on the ground to figure out how do we make sure that women are equipped to run, have the networks, the resources and the tools to do so. So obviously this year was an exciting year. But as I thought through the question, I think there’s really three big things that were different this year, for women who were running and won.
Number one is who ran and how they ran was very different. What we saw, not just in California but across the country, we saw women who really didn’t think about it as a career path, but all of a sudden said, I have the background, I am passionate. I am going to now step up and run. Whether that was Viva Yslass in the Central Valley of California who was a public health advocate, or whether it was Andrea Marr who was a navy veteran down in Costa Messa. Or whether it was Eleni Kounalakis right, who was an ambassador. The diverse backgrounds of the folks who ran and the sincere motivation by which they ran and told their story, was really unusual.
I mean, when I ran in 2014 for Congress in the Central Valley of California, I was told, you know, you’re aware your lipstick is a little too red and your earrings are a little too long and you know, make sure that your kids aren’t around. Well, when you’re Latina, you know, and you tell your mom, this is what they said to me, mom, you know, she looks at me and says, that’s who we are and who you are as a community. You gotta run as you. And I think this election cycle, we had people across the board, across the country run is exactly who they were. And I think that made a huge difference.
The second piece is how they ran. They did things differently. They didn’t bring their kids. I mean, when I ran for Congress, I have my little ones introduce me because I needed to entertain them, but I got a lot of flack for that. This year, now you see them walking into the halls of power with their kids. The second piece, and I think this has been talked about so I won’t repeat it, but the ecosystem was very different. How many women were not just donors or candidates, but they were, they were activists, they were starting organizations. They were really building it in big numbers this time and owning that space too. And I think that part is so exciting because as I’ve seen across the country, you do need those staffers in these campaigns. You do need the ecosystem around you to really lift up new voices and different voices.
The third thing is social media. So social media this year really did allow our candidates, really did allow women to get around some of the traditional gatekeepers. So it used to be you’d be a credible candidate if you were on that ed board or if you got that endorsement. And a lot of women ran this time making and building their own audiences on social media and being able to get around that and give a direct message of who they were and why they were running and all kinds of different forums. And I actually think that opened up campaigns differently and allowed women to speak in ways that they really just couldn’t even get in, in years past.
My sort of, I’ll end on this point, which is, you know, having been, I have worked in the United States Senate for two different women, for Senator Feinstein and Senator Stabenow of Michigan. And I was there for about nine years and our numbers weren’t quite enough to truly change the discussion. And it’s incredibly exciting that now you see all of these women who have run in the way that they ran. Now they’re looking around the table and there’s enough to actually start to change that discussion.
And what I’ll say specifically about California is there was a recent article that said women ran across the country, but did they really? Are they really in sitting in the top posts in the House and Senate legislatures across the country? Before, in the last cycle we had 30 women sitting in 195 posts. This year we had 34. We got 34 now, sitting in 195 posts. But in California, three of the four top posts in the House and Senate or state legislature are women. And so I believe, and it’s not surprising to me that the woman that is leading a national conversation as Speaker of the House comes from California.
And so I believe it is California, that is shaping what the discussion will and can look like at a national level, whether we’re talking about our legislature or we’re talking about really in Congress as well and what women, what role women are playing there too. So I’m excited to see this because as a policy walk we’re getting there. We’re getting there.
Laurel Rosenhall: Well, thank you. So the big picture is that California elected 54 women in November, including for Congress, legislature and statewide offices. And as Mary said, that helped increase the portion of women in the legislature from what it had been about 20 percent to about 30 percent now. And obviously combined with other states, we now have more female House members in Washington than ever before. And, you know, these are very big increases, but they came at this sort of really unusual and powerful cultural moment, right? Like it was on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. We had women marching in the street worldwide. A Me Too movement that was taking down dozens of prominent men. And now, you know, the women’s march has begun to fray a little bit and the Me Too thing is no longer making daily news. And I’m just wondering how sure are you that there will still be momentum to build toward gender parody in government when the culture turns its gaze away from these women’s issues. And if it’s helpful, maybe you could rank your opinion from like five I’m positive that the momentum will be there to one, I know it won’t be there.
I mean I’m like a five. I’m just totally like actually look like I don’t know who, who in the room is following AOC’s Instagram feed. You know, like I just feel like she’s like a phenomenon and it’s like, you know, that week where everybody swore in and it’s like, you see everybody out there that’s doing it and they’re not going away. They’re not going anywhere. And I think it’s actually a brilliant strategy that they’re using at the national level. It’s a political strategy, it’s a social media strategy. It’s engaging young women, young women of color, people of color, elders. Like oh my god, my mother in law just like calling me all the time to tell me what AOC had just said. I’m like, I know. I follow her. I see her, I love it. It’s great.
So yeah, I think that that for sure is happening. And I look at the women that are actually out there leading the big institutions out there that are moving and driving political power out there. So I looked at like Latasha Brown, if those of you knew about the Black Matters voters bus that ran all over Georgia and Florida, you know, to run for Stacey Abrams and to run for Gillum and to mobilize voters of color. Andrea Macado, who’s a Latina woman who ran the new Florida majority, is an intersectional community organizing plan to actually flip the numbers in Texas. So I see these women all over the country doing it and I don’t see anybody going home or going to bed.
Mary Hughes: I think the resources are there. I’m probably between a three and a four. I probably seen too much to be a five. But I would say, you know, it’s easy to catch a wave. It’s tough to sustain a movement. Those are two really different things. We had the benefit of the intersection of a wave and a movement in 18. We won’t get that again.
But here’s what we have in California. We have four election cycles that are unlike any we’ve had before over the next decade. So in 22, 24, 26 and 28, you have reapportionment in 22. We know that in reapportionment we will get new lines, we will get retirements, we will get competitive races where people are drawn into the same districts, which means we’ll have more open seats every time there’re more open seats, women will thrive. So that is fantastic. 24, 26 and 28 are the years in which those members of the legislature who came in with the first rounds of the 12-year term limits must leave the legislature, creating open seats in those four cycles.
So when we created and designed Close the Gap, it’s not an ongoing organization. It ends in 28. Our view is if we can’t get to parity under those circumstances and one more circumstance, then you know we should try something different. But for right now we think we can sustain the momentum with those circumstances.
And the other circumstance that is in our favor is simply a generational change. There are many leaders, many of the folks that we look to who have done great work, are over 70 years of age in the leadership across our state and that will change. These incredibly gifted young people who fueled the last election in many places in California, they will become the campaign managers and the consultants and they will stay at it. And about 50 percent of them are women, which is great. But, that combination of opportunity and generational change, which will change the atmosphere make me extremely optimistic about California.
Amanda Renteria: Yeah. I’m a five probably plus and the reason is, is because of that young generation and they are growing in numbers. And they have actually never experienced some of the things that maybe Gen X-ers and older have experienced. So their expectation is just, of course we should. And just by the very idea that we’re going to have more of them voting and we’ve seen that over time. If you voted the first time you’ll vote again. And it’s not lost on me that we saw this major push in a midterm. And so usually I don’t think over the course of history and I have to actually look at the data, but we’ve rarely had a higher midterm turnout than presidential turnout. So just by the data alone, it feels like we’re in that direction. And what, as of a month ago, we now have three women running for president. I mean, so you just see this continuing to go. Now, I do think it might not feel the same. It might not feel like the big marches, it just will be women working in these organizations, women doing the hard work, being campaign managers. So I don’t know if we’re going to have that same major march feel again, but we’ve now set the stage and really seeded it that I think we’re going to just, there’s no turning back now.
Laurel Rosenhall: Great. Thank you. So one of the outcomes of 2018 that I think may reflect a larger trend, although I am confused by it in California’s political power, was, you know, Diane Feinstein’s obviously crushing victory over her Democratic challenger, Kevin De Leon, and Nancy Pelosi, winning back her historic role as House speaker. And these things, they were not really a surprise, but they illustrate the difference I think between Washington DC and Sacramento when it comes to leadership by California women. Now I know you mentioned that of the four legislative leaders in Sacramento, that three are women. That’s a pretty recent phenomenon. The Republican leaders don’t really have much political power because they can’t negotiate the budget. There’s really not a lot for them to do. So the Republican legislative leaders are both women. The California Senate has a woman leader, Senator Toni Atkins. That was last year. That was the first time ever that the upper house in the legislature had a woman leader. And there’s only been a couple of short term assembly speakers who are women.
But then, in Washington, California has this amazingly powerful long-standing representation by strong women at the federal level. Obviously Nancy Polosi and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. And now Kamala Harris. And even when Kamala was running a couple years ago, she was up against another woman, and then in the general election. So I’m just wondering, you know, what do you think explains this difference? Is it just a coincidence? Is it the power of this sort of San Francisco political machine at the federal level? Or is there some other reason that California women have gained more power seemingly in Washington than they have at the state level?
Amanda Renteria: So I’ll speak to a little bit of the national level of why California plays such a big role. One, we have one of the biggest delegations in the house, right? So in general, just the numbers alone pushed the house. But the other piece is, you know, for the most of, at least my lifetime, we have moved more progressive on our policies. And the idea that you are able to fill that voice in Washington really does give Californians a really unique place to be. And it’s happening faster, right? Criminal justice reform, we’ve been talking about criminal justice reform in California for a really long time. It got passed and so I think being on the cutting edge of where progress is going does give you an edge once you get to Washington to really build that voice and be a leader there, so I’ll give that side of it. I’ll let folks talk about the state side.
Mary Hughes: I would offer that in Washington and in California, you can look at recent California history. If you go back to 1987, Nancy Pelosi was elected in a special election. From there forward, the complexion of our delegation changed. The gender of our delegation changed. It takes a leader with vision and purposefulness. These things don’t happen on their own. She knew where the openings would be. She knew the women in the legislature who could rise. She knew when to say to someone, you get ready. There’ll be an opening here. Somebody has to lead and one of the great things about Speaker Pelosi is that she’s likes to lead and she’s good at it, but she does it all the time in multiple ways. And that delegation grew out of a synergy in San Francisco that really began with the Burtons and with Leo McCarthy and they had Barbara Boxer and they had Nancy Pelosi. And they worked with them and granted they were staffers and they were fundraisers, but they didn’t stay there. And their talent was recognized and it was supported, but it takes purposefulness. Somebody has to say, you, you’re talented, you get in line, we’ll bring the support and that happened and it continues to happen.
Nicole Boucher: I would just add, I think at the state level, when I think of progressive women coming into the state legislation, I think it’s really challenging actually to have progressive women lead in California when you have special interest groups that put humongous oil IEs to go against progressive candidates. I mean, I think a lot of people know this, too. In California, you know, the assembly has not been the most progressive. A lot of it has oil interests and other corporate business interests at hand and actually our problems are not always Republicans. Well now they just turn into Democrats as we saw last week.
But you know, we actually have a problem with a mod squad in California moving progressive politics. I think it’s actually been hard to see progressive women legislators actually come up and be true progressive forces in the legislature. But I am very hopeful, I think with last year and some of the folks that have come in. I look at Melissa Hurtado that just came into the Senate. And the Central Valley has really great progressive values, took out Anthony Vidak out there and is actually moving some pieces already, so I have a lot of great hope about what might be possible.
Laurel Rosenhall: Well I will sort of continue on that theme about, you mentioned the new Senator Hurtado. And I’ll plug a very cool interactive that some of my colleagues at Cal Matters made that’s called Legislators Like You. And it’s this kind of interactive thing where you can go in and click your own demographic information and the map will show you which legislators in California are similar to you based on your age or ethnicity, gender, and other factors. I didn’t write this sentence, but my colleague Matt Levin did. And I think it’s really good. So I’m going to read it. It says, “There are still more white men named James in the California legislature than African American and Asian American women combined.” So if you’re keeping track, there’s seven white men named James and an African American named Jim. There are four African American women in the legislature and one Asian American woman. She is a Republican.
But one group of women that has grown a lot in the last couple of cycles that I’ve seen in Sacramento is Latinas. There are now 15 Latinas in the state legislature. And since November election where they won a lot of the huge areas in the Central Valley. There’s now Latinas representing the Central Valley kind of up and down the street from Yolo County in the north through Stockton, Modesto and Fresno. And I’m just wondering if any of you have any thoughts about the significance of the rise of Latinas or the really small number of other women of color in the legislature?
Amanda Renteria: I think it was, in some ways a long time coming in particularly in the Central Valley. And this year was particularly unique in terms of the Latino network in the central. So towards the end of it I actually opened up a super PAC, Valley Works PAC. And what we saw on the ground is the Latinas who were always actually frankly doing the work, but they weren’t running, this time they had candidates, whether it was in Kingsburg, whether it was in a school board, whether it was in some of our commissions that we had. They were actually running at those local levels as well. And so it was the combination of the organizations they always ran combined with now they had candidates who stepped up to run. And I think again going back to the earlier question about whether I think this is going to last, they were already there in some of these places were really long time actually and now they just used the community power they had political power. And I think that will continue to be the truth in how they use their own power. And you’re seeing it with Melissa — her communication back to the Central Valley is very different than any other elected that has ever run into Valley.
Laurel Rosenhall: How so?
Amanda Reneteria: She communicates a heck of a lot more online with a lot of the younger community. Many times in the Central Valley, it’s sort of a distance and it’s been a distance for a long time. You come see me, I don’t go see you and it’s particularly the communities she’s going to to go talk to that people usually don’t go to these little communities. They’ll stay in the dense areas and she’s doing it quite differently in talking to those groups. She’s not just going to the chamber or the ag groups. She’s going to Latina Leads and she is going to the homeless shelter. And you’re seeing a different kind of conversation now happening.
Nicole Boucher: And I would just say, you know, first of all, I play that Cal Matters game every cycle. Thank you. I’m always eight, zero as a queer, multiracial woman, third generation Californian I can never find myself in the legislature. But I am not running for office, but I’ll help anybody who has my demographics run. But again, it’s about having these camps. And I think this is really what women have shown all over the country, is that they have inspired people to come out and vote, right? I mean, I think Melissa talks about water issues in the Central Valley. She talks about healthcare. She talks about jobs. I mean she goes out and knocks on doors. And you know, I mean, I would say to you like Rebecca Bauer Con, you know, from 80 16, like I was shocked. All of us were kind of like, whoa, she took the seat, but you know, she didn’t have a ton of infrastructure or establishment support. But I swear to God, she knocked on every darn door. And that district is like all over the place and she did, she knocked on every single door and she knew how to connect with people. And I do think that that is the power of the women that we’re seeing that are rising up and running for offices, is that they’re inspiring, they’re exciting. And like I see you when you knock on my door and I know and I can relate and connect with you.
Amanda Renteria: Emerge alum, Emerge alum.
Nicole Boucher: Yes. I know lots of Emerge alums.
Laurel Rosenhall: Did you want to weigh in on that question about the …
Mary Hughes: Well, I will take this opportunity to say, when I was in Sanger, trying to get Melissa to run and on the phone with Rebecca encouraging her. What you can say, I have to say, Melissa is extraordinary because if you’ve been to Sanger, it’s a sort of one-light town and the library is the community center. Everything’s right there. And we sat on the steps and talked about it and she was only in her counsel two years I think when she decided to do this. And what she said, and I thought this was so both inspiring, but also really telling, about what you both describe. She said, “I understand the people who live here and they’re not getting anything from Sacramento.”
And so that is so basic, and so the right reason for running that when you find a talented woman who believes in people getting what they need to live good lives, that is extraordinary. And people got that in her district, and it was a, obviously the result speaks for itself. So I feel like the important piece here though that you all can do and that in answer to your question, we’re going to have different kinds of compositions of who’s in the legislature as our demographics change, and also as we move around. It is not necessarily as nefarious as it may seem because we cluster. And that’s what we do. We cluster in places, right?
If you have ever looked at the big sort, which is different from the big short, you all understand some of the ways in which we choose how we’re going to be in competition with our own. But my point about this is do not underestimate the value of saying to someone “You should run.” Because there are many women and there’s a woman who will tell you about this who represents the Davis-Napa-Winters area. And that was all it took for her to run and no one knew her in her district. And she now serves in the legislature. So if they have that understanding of what people need, that is really so valuable.
Laurel Rosenhall: Great. Let’s talk about the California governor’s office. There’s never been a woman governor in California, but more than half the other states have had that. And there’s several states that have actually already had two women governors. I’m wondering for Amanda, what do you feel like you achieved in your sort of long shot campaign for governor last year and for the others? How come, why do you think that there hasn’t been a woman governor yet in progressive California?
Amanda Renteria: I think we have to have people on the stage. I think we have to show that you can have the courage to run and talk about different items, talk about and raise different issues and it has to start somewhere. And, for me that was an important time to say, listen, we need to be in this conversation, younger women, women of color need to be in this conversation. The issues we need to be talking about, especially during a time where there was a big discussion around Me Too, and people aren’t really talking about it. In fact, to be honest, when you go to ed boards or you talk to reporters, nobody asked me about it except for one. And that happened to you. One woman asked me about that conversation, one. I mean, that’s what I’m talking about when it’s like, why are you there? Because we need to be having some different conversations if we truly want to be reflective of the entire population. So my hope is that there’ll be plenty of discussions like that and we will have a much more robust, broad conversation on every single stage. And I am hopeful that we’re going to see some role modeling in this presidential campaign.
Nicole Boucher: Yeah, I like that. I mean I think on the national landscape compared to other states, sure California and seen as progressive. I don’t still see California really leaning into its true progressive potential. And again that has to do with making sure that our folks are mobilized and they’re actually able to vote, get out there and represent needs. And actually moving real legislation at the state level. I’d say that California, a lot of the stuff that we move that’s seen as progressive looks like window dressing to me. So I would say when you have things like, you know, the sanctuary state law, but ICE is still in your back door, you know, because you still have local legislators that are inviting them in. I’d still say that we have a lot of work to do on progressive issues.
When we say we’re a progressive state with a huge budget and we have an abysmal housing crisis and the highest child poverty rate in the country, most of those being black and brown kids, we have a long way to go in terms of progressive values and I think that we actually need to change the narrative in the state and pay attention. And start inviting in candidates just like you’re saying, that we’re seeing at the national level, at the state level, to really have that conversation in a different way.
Mary Hughes: I think it’s a combination of the actual logistics of what it takes to put together a competitive multimillion dollar campaign, as well as the internal fortitude to have known early enough that that’s what you wanted. And women’s ambition is different. So when the governor, our current governor decided that it would be a good idea to have gay marriage, I do not believe for a minute that it was lost on him or his advisors, that breaking that ground would define him in a certain way. I do not question his motives at all, but I believe that the whole of it made for a definition of leader that you could build on forever.
When women are doing their work, they’re working. They think about the work sometimes to the detriment of the politics. So their ambitions are different. And what I would say is that I think as more women go into these offices, we will see a diversification of the kinds of ambition they have. Some of it will be more like the ambition we’re used to. But I do think that there is for across the board, there is a difficulty in putting together the $40 million. And in order to do that somewhere earlier in your political career, you have to have attracted the attention of investors who want that for you. Right? And I think that that’s way down the road for many women in their thinking. So hopefully, I will just tell you, there’s a woman from Santa Barbara, Monique Limón, the first woman ever to chair banking in the Assembly. She is extraordinary. She has a number of colleagues from that class of I think 16. I think they get both of those things, but that’s a generational change.
Laurel Rosenhall: So it sounds like you’re saying not just to help women run and help them win, but also sort of, cultivate this longterm vision or longterm strategy for their leadership as politicians.
Mary Hughes: I would say it this way. It is one thing to do good work and serve your people. It is another thing to understand what it is to have power and to exercise it in a bigger way. And some people get to do that early on. Think about Senator Feinstein, she had a moment of history handed to her, on which she built forever after. Right. You make that or it’s given to you, but it is powerful. And then, when you understand how to use that power, you can do more good work, but you can also get more power.
Amanda Renteria: To build on that, there was just a New York Times article, looking at the differences between men and women, that men actually see it as a career path and women have engaged, they get passionate about something and then ran. Just the idea that you think about it as a career path sets you up differently, right? This is not a one moment. You’re not trying to bring up. You’re actually thinking about a career path and I do think that’s been a missing piece in the women’s movement or women who are running and it is changing. It absolutely is changing.
Laurel Rosenhall: So looking ahead to the presidential race next year, and the large field of Democrats who are likely to challenge President Trump. There’s already a handful of women running. And I’m just wondering how do you think that that is going to shape the Democratic primary? Is having multiple women good on the field?
Amanda Renteria: It’s going to be fun! I think it’s really fantastic and as I was saying before, a more diverse, broader conversation. And you are going to see, I mean, it really is interesting to see how each have already rolled out some of their campaigns, right? Some around kids with them, others around giving you their playlist and dancing to it at the kitchen table. I think the fact that we have such different voices coming to the table and all different ways and motivation, I just think it’s really broadening our images of leadership. And I think that part is going to be really interesting to see over time. I’m excited about it.
Nicole Boucher: Yeah. I’m super excited too. I just say, you know, I mean it’s going to be crazy expensive. Oh my God, it’s like so much coming out. But I’m excited too. I mean I think it does, it changes the conversation when you have a larger, broader diversity of candidates that are running. And I think the challenge I think will be, you know, for those of us that are so excited, you know, and a lot of us I think out there too, connected to candidates from certain places. And what I’m hoping is that we exercise discipline and really come up with what’s the policy platform that is really reflective of the communities that we know need to be taken care of. And how do we actually hold all of the candidates to the line and see how far we can from my perspective, move them left to make sure that all communities have the opportunity to thrive. And that’s the kind of political agenda that I want to run out of this for all the candidates.
Mary Hughes: So there are two things that women ascending to executive power are always tested on or evaluated by. One is decisiveness and the other is strength or toughness. And in this field of the four women who are have so far either declared or are being mentioned, there is a fascinating evolution that you can mark of how women see their executive leadership. So you have two women who have credentials that derive from law enforcement. They have been attorneys general and then Amy Klobuchar’s case, she was the state’s attorney. So that becomes a credential that sort of checks the box that says I’m tough or I’m strong enough to do this job. You won’t have to worry about that about me.
And then you have two women, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, who have chosen different paths. In Elizabeth Warren’s case, she is showing you how strong she is because she continually slays the dragon that is the financial industry in this country and she is an advocate on behalf of the middle class. And she has stayed that course from start to finish. That is her reason for being and she is making that case. But again, you have this woman who , as a scholar, has gone up against this gigantic industry. And there is power and strength in that. And that is impressive. Now, it’s gotten lost a lot recently, but I think you’ll see a resurgence of that.
And then you have what I would say is the future facing definition of strength, which is Kirsten Gillibrand, who said, I want to take care of America’s children the way I take care of my own children. You don’t get that from presidential candidates very often. That is a real ground breaker. So watch how they answered those two questions. Are you strong enough? Are you decisive enough?
Laurel Rosenhall: Great, thank you. Okay. I’m going to ask one more question and then I think we’ll be ready to turn it to the audience. You know, the data on the congressional races last year really showed that Donald Trump was a very motivating factor for people who voted for Democrats. And I’m just wondering, do you think Donald Trump has been good for the women’s movement?
Nicole Boucher: That’s such a trap.
Amanda Renteria: Yeah, I don’t even know how to answer that. It’s like a mad yes, because, I mean, obviously he’s stirred up some real ugly misogyny in the process. But I think he’s also shown that women’s power, we’ve got to step up ourselves. And what I will say about the women’s movement that I have that I think has really been interesting is not only did women step up, but there was a collective stepping up that really did have us realize if we collectively get together, we’re pretty powerful. I hate how we got here though. I absolutely hate how we got here. Right, my little girl has seen and heard things that I would prefer her not to hear from leaders. So I guess, a mad yes is my answer.
Nicole Boucher: I think it was a call to action and a wake up call for a lot of people in America. And I think for those that have grown up, poor, people of color, like a lot of us were like, it’s not that surprising I think to see the blatancy of the racism and the sexism and misogyny, in a sense. And I think it was a calling card to folks who were really shocked. Like, I didn’t think that America looked like this. And actually a deep moment of reflection to look back and be like, this is really not the America that I want and that I want for my children to see. I mean, so for me it’s actually been pretty moving I think to see the way that people have engaged and connected in ways that they never had before and actually become civically engaged. I mean, you know, like I said, it’s like I have my mother in law now who understands like the judicial process and how the Supreme Court justice gets nominated and elected. And I mean for that, people just had no idea at all. I mean when we ran the district attorney campaign, I mean it was so surprising when we first did the ACLU did the polling like in 2011. And how many people did not know that a district attorney was actually elected and all of the things that they were responsible for.
And so I think in this moment right now it’s been a calling card that we do need to pay attention. That’s also why I put this moment on a five, too, because I do think different and you know, maybe it is generational, but at this moment I see the amount of knowledge and power that people hold and it’s something I had never seen in my life. I mean to now where I see the way that seven, my daughter’s just turned 8, 7 and 8 year olds are able to articulate because they see it happening in their schools every day. You know, the parents who were not allowed, you know, when the embargo happened on the folks coming back into the country. You know what I mean? Those were our kids’ parents that were not able to come back in and our kids have a different definition. And I think that our children are articulating a different kind of vision for the future and so are the youth and they’re not going to turn back on that.
Mary Hughes: I would say no, and I would say no because of the destruction of everything from our relationships with countries around the world to the rollback in the environmental movement and the ignorance that has been raised to a level of policy is appalling. And it, I can’t bring myself to say, well, that’s too bad. It’s good for us. I don’t see it that way. It’s a disaster. It’s a disaster that if we are lucky, women will be stirred to lead us out of. But what we know is we need to be led out of it by strong leaders. It’ll take us a long time to repair this damage.
Laurel Rosenhall: Right here in front.
Audience 1: Hi, Trish Gorman. I’m in the League of Women Voters though I’m not representing them today. My question is, with women leaders, there’s a lot of discussion around this thing called likability. And it seems to me that the electorate writ large is looking for a woman to prove her strength, as you said. And yet there’s this other side that is maybe subconscious or less in the front of the brain of, “Oh, but she also has to be really nice and kind and friendly and not hard.” Like, you know, Hillary was hard, you know, the people said when they were with her privately, she was so nice. But I often wonder if she didn’t feel she had to project that coming from the generation she did and her hawkish views on Iraq to show that she could be a military leader. I don’t even know, truly, how much she was feeling that, from her heart or if she felt she had to show that. So, I was wondering if you could reflect on this dichotomy where on the one hand, she’s got to be a leader, she’s got to be decisive, she’s got to be strong, oh but also very nice and friendly and have a nice smile. And you know, all the traditional female virtues.
Nicole Boucher: Yeah, I mean, isn’t that the story of being a woman in general of everything? Actually I was looking, I looked at my Uber rating as a passenger and it was shockingly low and I was like, I am so nice when I get in these Ubers. But then I started thinking about it. I was like, okay, the majority of the people are men, oh, this is just my theory, but the majority of the people are men, but when I get in I’m usually on a call and I’ll say, “Could you please turn down the music? I’m on a phone call right now. Would you mind rolling up the window? Or can I have control of it?” And I’m thinking because I’m asking for what I want, I’m being punished. And I think that that is a story that a lot of women can relate to and the sense that, you know, why do we, why is “Sorry, not sorry a thing, right?” Why do women constantly apologize for asking for things?
And I think that we are in a new cultural moment right now where you’re just like, no. And I think that’s been the powerful moment about the Me Too thing where it’s like, you know what, there’s nothing wrong with asking for respect and asking for the things that we deserve. And yes, I see this playing out, too. I mean this is going to play out in the presidentials big time. You’re already hearing about it — about Elizabeth’s tone and how she’s so angry and Kamala this, I mean, and I think it will continue to play out, but I think what we have now is we actually have like Twitter and Social Media and things that can work in our favor because people will kind of come out and attack when they see a news article that is like totally misogynist or playing in a certain way. So, I think that there’s different vehicles that we can use now. And again, it goes back to the younger generation that’s like, oh hell no. We are not even.
Amanda Renteria: So having been in on a lot of the discussions about how do we do this on the presidential campaign with Hillary? It wasn’t lost on us then that we were, we had to meet the bar that a woman could command the most powerful military in the world and the way that people viewed that. I think one of the untold stories of the glass ceiling that Hillary actually did break is that for the first time in American history, 3 million more Americans voted for a woman. For the first time in American history, no one questioned whether a woman could be qualified, tough enough and commander in chief. And the idea that now we actually have a vision of someone that could do it, I think has really now opened up the possibility. And so, I am hopeful that the same conversations that we had in 2015, 2016, etc., about how do we portray her as such. To some degree, the fact that we’ve seen one woman that was believed to be, I think has now opened up a broader discussion of what other ways they can be tough enough, too.
Mary Hughes: I think for what I have seen and what I would always counsel is that for voters, they just want to see you. And women are trained to accommodate the situation. And so, we know when to be nice. We know when to ask. So we have different ways of being, and the question of your authenticity is really what’s at stake. So if I say to you, “You know what, Maxine Waters is always mad, right?” She’s always, she’s always expressing. People love Maxine Waters. I mean they know who she is, they know that’s who she is. And I think what is the ultimate frustration is not that you’re nice or you’re mad or you’re this or you’re that. It’s that they’re not sure who you are. So, to the extent that we allow women to be who they are, then people can choose what they like. It’s the notion that they are applying something that they hope will sell you, whether it’s that they are strong enough to be commander-in-chief or sweet enough, like she’s not really sweet all the time. We’ve seen her not be sweet, right? So it’s authenticity that is the one thing you can hold onto, that will carry you through. And I think that for some women that’s unlearning a behavior which isn’t just authentic.
Audience 2: So with the growth of women in the California legislature, I’m wondering to what extent you think that elected women are going to follow kind of the traditional paths in which electeds divided themselves in the Democratic Party, between the progressives and the moderates. Or are they going to systematically break out of that mold and choose one route or another?
Nicole Boucher: I mean, in terms, I think for progressive women’s leadership, I think it’s a numbers game, so it’s like, you know, costs money to run for office and I do think that that’s why we do the work that we do at the Donor Table so that we can actually support progressive candidates to hold progressive values and actually get elected against, a lot of money forces that are against them. And I think it’s hard to run a campaign authentically if you don’t have the resources to run a campaign authentically and you don’t have the resources to go and communicate with voters. So, that’s just one piece I put in.
Mary Hughes: I think they are, first and foremost, assembly members and senators, so they will vote for their districts. So, we elect people and I think progressive is a word like liberal that will soon be set aside for another word as it loses its meaning. So, we have criteria that’s progressive. It’s different for different organizations. It’s hard to say. It’s pretty arbitrary where the line is. So, I would say they’re good legislators if they serve their districts.
Amanda Renteria: And on that point, I think the folks that got elected this time might have been elected by a different kind of electorate than in the past. And so that will be really interesting to see. Melissa Hurtado was a really good example of this. She didn’t win in the same way that her democratic predecessor did. Her electorate and her path to victory looked very different and that might actually change a little bit of whether she goes in the mod squad or not.
Audience 3: Before the 2018 election, and at other times too, I’ve seen some commentary and some theorizing about how it’s easier for women to get elected to legislatures than it is for them to get elected to executive positions, governor, presidency and the like. And I’m just wondering if you guys have done some thinking about that, if you’ve done maybe even some analysis and whether you think maybe the 2018 election has given us more data to help us sort that out.
Amanda Renteria: There is absolutely. There is research on it. I wish I was more, Lisa probably has it. But there is research on it that people are less inclined to vote for a woman in an executive role. I would argue that seeing presidential candidates that are women now, seeing prosecutors, those kinds of those images just change the way people view it. But to your point about the credibility standard and how do you be authentic and be viewed by the world as an executive manager, holder? I still think we have some ways to go but we’re making progress. But there’s research that supports that idea, that thought.
Mary Hughes: The research is beginning in 1998, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation in Boston has tracked every woman who’s running for governor in the United States to study why it is that there is a more difficult time for women to get elected to executive office than legislative. So you’re absolutely right that it is more difficult. And there are specific hurdles. They’ve published all of the researches online. Tey do a great job and I was happy to be part of that research team. It’s a long study. It’s about 20 years now, in the works, but some very helpful information there. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation. Not Oakland Barbara Lee, but Boston Barbara Lee.
Audience 4: I’m totally sympathetic and supportive of all your work, but I’m curious how you would advise your absent counterparts on the Republican side. Most of the gains in terms of women getting elected, have been on the democratic side, certainly in this past cycle. Would you argue that Republicans would have been more successful, had there been more women under the Republican banner? Or would you argue that the Republican message in policy agenda would be fundamentally different if there were more women candidates and office holders?
Mary Hughes: Gosh, what immediately comes to mind, I’m not sure what we think, but I’m pretty sure they do think that’s right because every time they get an opening for a senate now they appoint a woman. So, I’m pretty sure that they think there must be something to that. That and the rise of Liz Cheney in the leadership and how visible and vocal she has been. And I know she’s coming to California to the Republican convention. So I think that, they must believe that that’s right. I have to say, I really think that it’s about their basic policies and ideology and that you can’t paper it over with some good women out front. So it’s a tough sell.
Laurel Rosenhall: There is in the Republican Party, the California Republican Party is having a race for chair right now. And a woman is a serious contender. So that’s one thing to watch. It would be very interesting if the Republican state party had a woman chair before the Democratic state party did. It would be.
Mary Hughes: But we’ve had them. We’ve had them. Nancy Pelosi was chair of the party.
Amanda Renteria: I think this year for them, for women over there, was really damaging. And when you look at that picture of the house on one side and the democratic delegation on the other side and you saw all the different colors. When you think about that judiciary committee where there’s not one woman on the judiciary committee and in very high profile hearing. This was incredibly, I think, damaging for Republican women. And you hear it here in California. But what I will say is to hear over and over again from the Republican Party that they need to start caring about women because they’re going to lose just infuriates me for, yeah. I’ll end there.
Audience 5: So one of the things as an, I’m a school board trustee. And what I’ve seen is that people run for office for two reasons. Either because they see a need for some issue that they want to see happen or because they see themselves as a leader. Do you think that’s important and where? And if so, how so? Do you understand what I what I mean? Sometimes it’s that somebody sees that something isn’t happening and they’re like, okay, I want to change juvenile justice for instance, and nobody seems to be doing it. So I guess it’s me. I guess I have to do it. Or it’s, I see myself as a senator someday, so I’m going to run for school board, I’m going to run for this. And so whatever the cause of the day is, they address that cause versus seeing a cause that they want to make a difference on. And to me that’s a very important split, but I’m interested in what you think as far as women running for office, whether that’s important.
Amanda Renteria: I think just on a personal level as a public servant for so long working, I’ve always believed that if you’re going to be in this really honored position or honored industry, it is about others and it is about making sure that we have a society that’s good for all. And I struggle a little bit in folks who want a title because I just think you know, the beauty of who we are as a country, the beauty of what our public institutions are, that sincerity of why you’re there about really serving is important, for me just personally.
Nicole Boucher: I think that conversation is happening right now actually about Kamala. And I’m finding it really interesting as people are kind of pouring into her record when they’re looking at her like, well when she was San Francisco DA, she made certain decisions because she knew she wanted to ascend to Senate. And then those on the other side are like, well she was as progressive as the politics allowed in that time for criminal justice. I mean I think that there’s, we’re going to see that continue to kind of play out. Right. And this whole thing is like, well, what’s going on in his mind? Right? Is it that she had aspirations to hold higher office because she knew that she could do more for the constituents that she really cared about, or was she ascending and looking for power? And I think it’s kind of one of those very murky areas to understand. And I think probably as a candidate and an elected, you’re faced with having to make a ton of choices that have to do with resources and votes and power that it’s probably a very wavy line and not a straight line at all on either.
Audience 6: Hi, thank you. So, just to revisit the Donald Trump question, the premise of that question was actually pretty offensive. So, I just wanted to kind of frame shift that a little bit. You know, in 2016 we saw that, you know, the first or you know, our country denied the presidency to the first woman to win the popular vote. But here we are about two years later, just after the 2018 election. And we see everybody celebrating Nancy Pelosi for being a total badass and her response to the shutdown. So what do you think this says about women’s leadership and how the country thinks of women’s leadership and women’s participation?
Nicole Boucher: I think that this moment, the Me Too moment, has given more power and more clarity to say like we’re fed up and we’re going to say what’s on our mind. We’re going to be unapologetic about it. I know for me as a person, as an individual and how I’ve shown up in the world, I’ve always kinda been like that and now I’m even more like that, you know, too. And we have the thing that’s been really beautiful about that though is that there’s more social acceptance of it now. Where before I just had those women, my women friends that I would go to and talk about it, but now I can kind of like say it out loud. And there’s a different energy around it. And I don’t know, maybe it’s that we’ve created more power where we just want people to like shut up when we want to talk about it. So I think that that’s showing up in politics and it’s showing up in pop culture and it’s showing up in leadership. And showing up in how we’re doing every day.
Audience 7: With regards to women in California running for governor or being elected governor, what impact do you think term limits might have on that. Or does that factor in the legislature?
Mary Hughes: Well, term limits definitely creates an upper out dilemma for all legislators. Right? And again, we only have, what is it, eight statewide offices, right? Is that right? So you’ve got all these people sort of feeding into this funnel that leads to the big prize up here. And my sense is that for a lot of women, what you have to do to go from the 120 into one of those 8 to be in the running, if you will, it’s a sacrifice that they’re not willing to make. A lot of male male legislators aren’t making that sacrifice either, but our lack of numbers makes it more clear or puts pressure on us to get going.
So, I’m not sure how the term limits plays except that it may be that people are making a decision earlier in their careers. And that what I do see a lot in the legislature now, people are deciding 12 years or in the assembly, or do I take a chance and might lose my seat and run for the senate? So people are making career choices in terms of their status. And a lot of it is just how risk averse you are, right? So I’m not sure that’s gender particularly, but I do see a lot of people, much more cagey earlier. Cagey is wrong because there’s nothing wrong with making these decisions. But they have to think about it earlier and make choices about what path.
But the other thing I would just say is as long as women are primary caregivers, not only for children but for their parents and sometimes for their partner’s parents, there is less expansiveness for the things you must do to advance. And I always I worry about that. That is an unfair burden when I refer to changing the culture. That’s what I’m talking about. You gotta even up a lot of stuff that isn’t as visible before you’re on a really level playing field.
Audience 8: I’d actually like to double click on the whole woman group, right? Because there’s racial diversity and when I think about governorship, woman governor, in my mind, I can only think of white women. Jane Bruner, governor of Michigan. I mean I can only think of white women. And so what, what opportunity are we building in California to create the pathway for a woman of color to be an executive position and double click on that to support a woman of color in the presidency. Not that I’m, you know, not that I’m endorsing a presidential candidate or anything like that, but it’s very powerful for me to see a wide range of women running to be president. But in the governorship I don’t really see that. So is there, what pathway, what are we doing, you know, as leaders, you up on the stage or us here to create that pathway for women of color to get into those executive positions?
Amanda Renteria: Here’s what I’ll say at Emerge America, because we’re really trying to make sure that, you know, when Michelle Lujan Grisham wins the governorship of New Mexico, right? When we have the governor, I mean, any single time we have governor candidates, we’ve got to women of color, all women, all people have got to start talking about our women of color leaders. We’ve got to start, actually, I mean this and this is true across the board. We’ve got to start talking about the diverse set of leaders that we have in our country, whether it’s business, authors, scientists, etc. And I think it’s been missing from a conversation that we’ve been having. And so it’s not surprising that when I think about role models, right, you think about whomever, you know, is out there in the media, but it is why I love social media in many ways because it does give an opportunity to get around normal gatekeepers that might not even know the different leaders of different communities. But we did have a major win in New Mexico with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Huge actually.
Nicole Boucher: And I think Stacey Abrams changed the conversation, right? And I think that you saw that heartbreaking loss. And you also saw like how much of a machine that that took to even get her through the primary, you know what I mean? And that was, that’s a campaign behind the scenes that’s been going on for a decade of working in building power and building the electoral power. Right? So I mean that’s been about registering voters 10 years ago, thinking about her run. This has been about organizing donors and labor and folks on the ground. It’s been about creating a major national story and still, right? You still look at the infrastructure, you look at a referee that stole the election from her in that.
And I mean, and I think that that again is another story for California as well as like, well, what is it gonna take to actually move and like build true progressive power in communities of color? It’s about putting those resources, time and time again, resourcing groups on the ground to be moving the agendas that they want to move on off cycle years, not just on cycle years and not just for cycle. It has to happen over and over again and I do believe that there’s a pathway for that to California. But the other thing also to mention is California is an incredibly expensive state. Maybe we spent a billion dollars in this last election cycle, right, and the opponents will come out and they will spend very big. So I think as you can, I’m sure attest to you in your run, how much money gets spent to these gubernatorial runs.
Mary Hughes: Two quick points. One is, to your point Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams both ran against big odds. And they both came very close. I think she came a little closer to winning her race than he did. Both rock stars in their own worlds. Only one of them is talked about as well, he didn’t win, but he might be a good president. Right? So that’s an interesting to your point. But the other thing is, would you be surprised to know that two of the three women who hold statewide office in California are women of color. And all three of them are first generation Americans. And all of them went to work young. They have very different paths, but I would say that California is remarkable in its openness. And find the opening and the woman and go. Because that’s what those three women did and they are all different circumstances, but there are only eight of those positions in the state.
Laurel Rosenthall: Yes, that’s the Fiona Ma who’s now the treasurer and Betty Yee who’s the controller and that Eleni Kounalakis as lieutenant governor. I see have a question here and then there was one over there.
Audience 9: This is, I guess particularly to Nicole, but anyone who wants to say anything about it. I live in Berkeley here and I’m fine with that, but I have huge numbers of relatives that are out in the “outback” as they call it, rural areas all throughout California, way out in the sticks in some cases. And you had made a statement that somebody you know, in a small community that you knew of, knew that the problem was that people there just feel like Sacramento doesn’t give them anything.
I have listened to that from my relatives and friends out in those places for at least 10 years. And they say the progressive may do great things, up the minimum wage. Well, that’s fine. There’s no jobs here anyway, so it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t do us any good that you up the minimum wage. It’s fine that you get rid of discrimination against women and blacks and hispanics and other people for jobs, but it doesn’t do us any good here because there’s still no jobs anyway. So it doesn’t matter. When I talked to male politicians and they do not seem to get that there’s that rural, suburban, urban dynamic at all and just still do not seem sensitive to it. But you made it sound like maybe you think more women candidates would be sensitive to that. Am I hearing that correctly or?
Mary Hughes: Well, I would say this at the risk of, I want to be careful because I don’t want to step into the world of stereotype, but I do think when constituents talk to a woman, they are more apt to say what is closer to home. I think men just by training and by comfortability talk about things that are truly hurtful or needy or exasperating at a distance so they make it this issue, right? It’s not about my family or our neighbors. It’s about this issue. So I think it’s different and I think women hear that slightly differently and I think that’s a good thing. I mean the whole goal here is not to have more women because we’re better. We’re different. And that difference has some value. And we want to make sure that value doesn’t get stomped out of us as we become more powerful. So I hope that’s what I was speaking to.
Audience 10: So the three of you up there have some really powerful organizations, thank you very much for doing that. And I wanted to ask you if you were asking candidates to make a commitment to pass legislation that is anti-voter suppression that really sticks to the kind of thing that is being used against Stacey Abrams and other women across the country. And to try and make that commitment, to make it possible for people to run in places where, you know, elections are being stolen. Do you ever ask for that kind of thing? So do you ask for people to make commitments to that kind of stuff? Legislation that protects against voter suppression and cheating?
Nicole Boucher: Yeah, I mean we ask our community groups and we asked the groups around the state what their biggest policy priorities are and if there’s things around voter suppression or things around access to voter centers or things like that. So we have those policy conversations with them. And we use our power and influence it to then push those to the candidates that we are looking to inverse.
Amanda Renteria: We don’t endorse candidates and we don’t endorse issues. It’s progressive women, period. So our theory at the very beginning was we just needed to get a lot of women to be trained and have the tools. So as of now we don’t ask issue questions because we don’t get them endorsements.
Mary Hughes: And we don’t ask about, or require anything regarding voter suppression. We have a very simple pro-choice, pro-public school, pro-path out of poverty. Those are the things that we ask people to make sure they pay attention to.