10 women who could be senator — or governor

By Betsy Cotton

After reading list after list suggesting who’s lining up to serve as our next Governor or Senator, one thing is clear: it’s time to expand the talent pool.

Before we head into the 2016 election cycle, let’s look at 10 who’ve done the work, taken on the tough issues, seized the reins in tumultuous times, succeeded unconventionally and pioneered new territory.

  1. Hilda Solis. This former U.S . Secretary of Labor, Member of Congress and state legislator has the experience to ensure that all Californians benefit from an improved economy. She is the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Cabinet and would be the first to represent California in the U.S. Senate.
  2. Jackie Speier.Congresswoman Speier is a perfect example of a strong, motivated woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. Whether speaking out against sexual harassment and rape in the military, or on behalf of consumer privacy rights online, she’s proven her effectiveness as a legislator and a leader.
  3. Kamala Harris. California’s current attorney general and former San Francisco district attorney is one of our most entrepreneurial leaders. She’s taken on local and national challenges from truancy to Wall Street. She’s a bold, big picture thinker who could join the growing list of Democratic women Governors who first served as AGs including Janet Napolitano (AZ), Jennifer Granholm (MI) and Christine Gregoire (WA).
  4. Loretta Sanchez.This Democrat has represented a congressional district in the heart of Orange County for nearly 20 years. A purple district expert, she knows swing voters. And with expertise in Homeland Security, veterans affairs and finance, she can speak their language.
  5. Toni Atkins. The Speaker of the State Assembly is known for being a stabilizing force in tumultuous times, which included a period serving as acting Mayor of San Diego. Her “take charge” moves in the Assembly suggest she is comfortable exercising power to get things done. Always a winner with voters.
  6. Delaine Eastin. A former two-term State Superintendent of Public Instruction, she gives a stemwinder of a speech.   As Superintendent, she reduced class size and championed early childhood education. A favorite of grassroots activists, Eastin touches the populist nerve like few political leaders.
  7. Karen Bass. A former Speaker of the Assembly and current Member of Congress, Bass starts with an LA base, a powerful progressive network and a stadium full of foundation and non-profit fans.Her personal brand of respectful, inclusive leadership wins points with other elected officials.
  8. Maria Contreras Sweet. Currently head of the US Small Business Administration, Sweet founded and served as chair of LA’s ProAmerica Bank. She broke new ground as Governor Davis’ Cabinet Secretary for Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. She combines private sector connections and public sector accomplishment.
  9. Geena Davis.Geena Davis is a Renaissance woman; she’s an Oscar-winning actor, chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women, MENSA member and activist head of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.  Hollywood has sent more than one leading man to Sacramento.  It’s about time a woman walked off the red carpet and into the Governor’s office.
  10. Betty Yee: After surviving a bruising primary and a prolonged vote count, CA’s new Controller may be its most resilient political leader.  Combine that with in-depth knowledge of state finances, warm people skills and a fervent grassroots base, and she has to be a contender.  Anyone want to bet against her?

Betsy Cotton is director of close the gap CA, a campaign to increase the number of progressive women in the CA Legislature.