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More Women Now


I flew across the country from freezing NYC to sunny, not so cold Oakland on Saturday just in time to pop into a reception for one of my favorite groups Emerge California , who's goal it is to get more Democratic, pro-choice women elected to public office.  Ever since I managed Ruth Messinger's campaign in NYC to help get her elected to the NY City Council in the late '70s, I've known that women in office often improve our legislatures.  But we are sadly lacking in the number of women elected at every level of government.

Sandra Fluke, famous for being pathetically attacked by Rush Limbaugh for advocating for access to contraception, was at the event, at the Den at the Fox Theatre, and made a funny point -- she noted that there was some progress in the past election for women in much that we are now ranked 79th in the world up from 80. She dryly suggested there is some room for improvement.

During Saturday 25 women participated in an Emerge training to prepare them for the big decision to run, what it entails, and the essential ingredients for success.  Dynamic Oakland City Council member Libby Schaaf cheekily offered the encouragement that she ran for office with two toddlers and that you don't get disqualified if your petitions include traces of baby vomit.  Trainees will graduate in June, and Emerge’s dynamic leader Kimberly Ellis told the audience to make their calendars for Emerge’s big fundraiser on May 2nd in San Francisco.

California Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner proudly told the large, very diverse, energetic audience that California is one of the few states where there has been no back sliding on reproductive rights, in fact a small expansion.  This suggests that men in office aren't always bad. Despite the fact, that Democrats hold virtual super majorities in the California legislature, the percentage of women is only 28.3 %, showing that the Democrat party isn’t all that much better than Republicans for recruiting and ensuring that there is something close to gender parity in Sacramento. That is why Emerge is so important.

The percent of women in state legislatures cross the country is quite depressing actually  --Colorado is the highest with 40%, while the majority of legislatures have women represented under the 30% level and a number under 20%, the lowest being South Carolina with 10% followed closely by Louisiana with 11%.   

As Fluke said, there is some room for improvement.