When the Latino Legislative Caucus announced 10 endorsements Thursday, four were women — a much higher percentage than another set of endorsements in March, which led to a push by Sen. Gloria Romero for the caucus to get behind more female candidates.
Meanwhile, the highest-ranking Latino official in the state, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican, was absent from the list.
A perceived lack of support for Latina candidates caused Romero to write a letter in March to her fellow Los Angeles Democrat, caucus Chairman Sen. Gil Cedillo, in which Romero warned that due to term limits “the representation of Latinas in the State Legislature stands to be cut in half by November, from eight down to only four between the Assembly and Senate.”
Cedillo sent his official reply on March 22, saying that he shared Romero’s concerns. But he added that it was “noteworthy that there were a number of female candidates interviewed during our endorsement retreat that failed to receive as many votes as there are women in our Caucus.….We are also challenged by the number of legislative districts currently represented by Latinas with no female candidate in the race.”
Reached on Thursday, Cedillo confirmed that he had talked with Romero about the issue. He said the caucus needed to focus not just on gender but issues such as a candidate’s viability, fundraising, labor support, and philosophical alignment with the goals of the caucus.
“I think the Senator was more focused on the result and not so much on the process,” Cedillo said. “When you look at our process, I think we did everything we could. Now if women vote against other women, there’s nothing I can do about that. The fact kind of interferes with the theory.”
Romero’s March letter noted that when the Caucus held their candidate forum a few days earlier, they interviewed 22 female candidates. But when all was said and done, the caucus only endorsed two Latinas. One, Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, “is current member who, by our own by-laws, we cannot endorse against,” Romero noted. The other, Nora Campos, “was the only candidate from her district brought forth for Caucus consideration–and she had no male opposition.”
Caballero is running for re-election for the last time in her Salinas-based 28th Assembly District. Campos is a San Jose City Councilwoman running to replace Joe Coto in the 23rd Assembly District. Romero herself is running for state superintendent of public instruction.
The other 20 endorsements went to men. Overall, Romero said, these numbers represent “a very disturbing trend.”
The trend got a little better on Thursday, when the caucus got behind three female legislative candidates. One of these is also a current caucus member, Assemblywoman Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista, who is running in the 40th Senate District.
Another endorsed woman, Susan Jordan in the 35th Assembly District, is not a Latina. Neither is former Assemblyman John Laird, who is vying for the Senate seat that became vacant when Abel Maldonado was sworn in as the new lieutenant governor on April 27.
But now that he’s officially a running incumbent and probable Republican nominee, Maldonado didn’t, and won’t, get a caucus endorsement — a factor which, incidentally, prevents the overall endorsement list from tilting even more male. The issue was the Maldonado’s lack of alignment with the Democratic and labor oriented caucus.”
He said the caucus may endorse one of the two leading Democrats in that race, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom or Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.
Another woman who landed a caucus endorsement was Romero herself. Romero is also the pick of California List, a statewide group working to elect Democratic women. But she faces a tough primary race against Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, who has racked up a long list of education endorsements, including the both the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers.
The Latino Caucus does not approach the demographic monotony of the Republican Caucus, where 37 of 42 members are male. But Romero is correct to note that the female percentage of the Latino Caucus (30 percent) is lower than the number for other legislative Democrats (42 percent). Of the non-Republican, non-Latino members of the Senate, eight are male and eight are female. The numbers in the Assembly are more skewed, with 20 men and 12 women.
The Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus has four women out of 10 members. This caucus includes Assemnblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, who is of mixed heritage and also belongs to the Latino Caucus.
The Legislative Black Caucus has two women out of eight members. They will lose Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, to term limits this cycle, though she’s a prohibitive favorite to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Diane Watson in the November elections.
Among non-Hispanic white Democrats in the Legislature, nearly half — 14 out of 31 — are female.
The Maldonado and Romero campaigns did not return requests for comments.
Many of us, including myself, are happy to have him (Maldonado),” Cedillo said, then added, “But that end of the day, we also have some fundamental political differences with him.”