Q2 Report: More Great Women Stepping Up To Run


July 29, 2015

THANKS TO YOU, more accomplished, progressive women are declaring their candidacies.  The number of prospective candidates is up and so is our number of target districts.  We’ve researched, interviewed and met with over 400 extraordinary women leaders: elected women, non-profit and private sector women, women activists and advocates.

To benefit our prospects, we expanded our collaboration beyond the progressive women’s community and joined forces with organizations supporting candidates of color, labor and environmental organizations; social justice, education and legal groups.  We continue to consult with the Women’s, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and Black Caucuses of the Legislature.


We increased the number of target districts from 16 to 20. Among these 20 seats, 15 progressive women are now running in 11 districts.  Twelve are women of color. See where progressive women are running here.

We expect prospects completing explorations with us to make decisions in 3 additional districts before Labor Day.  Here’s where we’re still recruiting:

District Geography District Geography
AD 16 Livermore, San Ramon, Walnut Creek AD 31 Fresno
AD 35 San Luis Obispo AD 45* San Fernando Valley
SD 27 SFV/Ventura SD 35 South Central LA

*Not yet open, but we’ll be ready!


We have identified excellent women in these districts, but the ratio of prospect to actual candidate is about 35 to 1, so we need your help.  Know a strong prospect?

Send your nominees to alice@closethegapca.org.


This spring we held “search parties” in Benicia/Martinez, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and the San Fernando Valley.  Thanks to the hundreds of local activists who have participated in these valuable exchanges.

Our “Ready for Her Too” campaign launched on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s announcement for President drew attention to the need for women to run for local, state and federal offices.   Our thanks to Run Women Run, EMERGE CA, BWOPA, NWPC and all those who sent us photos of women who should run. Your presence in social media produced a new round of candidate nominations.  Nice work.


We hosted a private reception for over a dozen prospective candidates and progressive organizations at the California Democratic Party’s annual convention and later joined EMERGE CA, CDC and WIP PAC for a celebration of progressive women leaders.

Special thanks to Speaker Toni Atkins and Assembly members Garcia, Eggman, Campos, Chiu, Gonzalez, Stone, Lopez for joining us.  Our prospective candidates appreciate your support and encouragement.

Likewise, a big thank you to Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara who joined close the gap CA at the annual Equal Rights Advocates lunch in San Francisco where her equal pay bill and the entire A Stronger California campaign were celebrated.  Electing more progressive women is the most direct way to ensure that equal pay, flexible and predictable work schedules, affordable child care and universal pre-school become central tenants of a progressive agenda and the law in California. 

Close the gap CA heads to Burlingame for the California Democratic Party’s August 15th Executive Board meeting.  We’ll be connecting prospects to activists and issue advocates to help them in their assessments.   Let us know if you’ll be there too. 

Finally, our thanks to allied organizations that have made the election of women a priority for 2016 and who support our work with their time, talent or treasure: 

Black Women Organized for Political Action

California Labor Federation

California League of Conservation Voters

California Nurses Association

California Professional Firefighters

California School Employees Association

Consumer Attorneys of CA

Educate Our State


Leadership for a Clean Economy

NARAL Pro-Choice CA

National Women’s Political Caucus

Planned Parenthood of CA

Progressive Era Project


United Food and Commercial Workers


Close the gap CA’s weekly Alerts are now delivered to over 5,000 recipients who support recruiting progressive women for state legislature.  If you know someone who should receive an ALERT, let Alice know: alice@closethegapca.org.

 Visit our website to contribute, volunteer or learn more:  www.closethegapCA.org. 

NOTE:  We are often asked, “Who are your candidates?”  As a 527 non-profit, progressive political organization, CTGCA cannot endorse or support candidates and that includes singling them out in our communications.  We exclusively recruit and prepare prospective candidates to make smart decisions about running including developing the policy and networks that will enable them to be successful.  Our allies fund, train, support and promote these women once they declare their candidacies.


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Ally Spotlight: California League of Conservation Voters and Leadership for a Clean Economy

Ca League of Conservation Voters leadership for a clean economy

By Antonia Madian

The drive for effective environmental legislators is strong in California, and no two organizations are more representative of that fact than Leadership for a Clean Economy (LCE) and the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV). They share a common goal: getting candidates with proven environmental policy track records into office so that California can continue to set an example as one of the greenest economies in the world.


LCE and CLCV work closely together in, as Rachel Van Wert, of LCE, describes it, “a thriving ecosystem of environmental and clean economy groups.” LCE recruits candidates to run for office and helps elect those candidates, while CLCV endorses candidates. Together these two organizations cover a great deal of ground in advancing environmental policy candidates in the legislature.


Both Mike Young, of CLCV, and Van Wert stress the importance of a long-standing commitment to the environment in potential office holders. Young says that it’s not just about a candidate’s position on current issues that CLCV takes into account when considering an endorsement, but what they have done to demonstrate this commitment through actions both as a public official and as an individual. He says, “public and private lives tend to be good indicators of how they will perform in the legislature,” along with their voting record, and how they have worked with the environmental community in the past. Van Wert explains that LCE looks to recruit people who both understand environmental policy issues and have “made them a priority in their careers” as a whole. She says we need to make sure we are “electing champions,” because most democratic candidates can say the right things on climate issues, but may not follow through.


Here at close the gap CA, we emphasize how important 2016 is as our last year to put more women in the legislature due to the new term limits, and CLCV and LCE share our concerns with regards to their environmentally-policy-minded candidates. “2016 is our last opportunity to meaningfully shape the legislature before open seats dwindle,” notes Van Wert.


Both LCE and CLCV also recognize the importance of bringing environmentally-minded women into office. Young notes, “women legislators make very effective environmental legislators,” and that “it helps to have many different ways of thinking on complex issues like the environment, especially because public health and the environment tend to be more on the minds of women.” Van Wert says, “California’s premiere climate legislation, which has been exported to other states and the federal government, was written and passed by female legislators and has left a very important footprint.” Both Young and Van Wert provided several examples of female legislators who have had a huge impact on environmental policy while in office. Van Wert highlighted the work of State Senator Fran Pavley and former Assembly Women Nancy Skinner. Young agreed and also cited the critical environmental work of Speaker Toni Atkins.


Both Young and Van Wert are optimistic about the state of climate policy in California, but stress that there is a lot of work to be done. Young emphasizes that, despite having poor showings in recent electoral years, we still have “strong, progressive, and forward thinking leaders on climate change” in office now, like Atkins and Attorney General Kamala Harris, and that we have to continue to back these candidates. Van Wert says that we are fortunate in California to “not be a state of climate skeptics;” however, “if we aren’t systematically cultivating, recruiting, and supporting candidates who will be our best leaders on climate change, we won’t see progress.” Both Young and Van Wert highlight California’s place as a leader for climate policy both nationally and internationally, and note that we are setting a standard for how environmental legislation can be implemented worldwide.


Finally, the people at LCE and CLCV both want to encourage potential progressive female candidates. Young says, “There is always a need for great legislators,” and notes that there are “a lot of structural disadvantages for women,” in politics and that we should all push for “strong, intelligent, liberal women.” Van Wert adds, “We will work really hard to raise money and provide hands-on resources” for strong female candidates who fit the LCE recruiting criteria. “If you are a leader on climate and clean energy issues, we want to get to know you.”


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Ally Spotlight: California Public Leadership Pipeline Project

wellstone progressive majority new american leaders project emerge ca

By Lauren Hirsch

The California Public Leadership Pipeline Project is a collaboration between Emerge CA, The New American Leaders Project (NALP), Progressive Majority, and Wellstone Action to develop and support progressive public leadership in Orange County. The Project works closely with local community organizations and partners to recruit and train potential candidates from diverse backgrounds including women, people of color, immigrants, and the differently abled community.


The Project has several goals, said Project Manager Asma Men. “We want to identify future public leaders from communities of color, from minority groups including women, who need support resources and assistance to help them get cultivated and groomed to enter public office. [We want to] create a base of politically progressive individuals within Orange County…In the course of speaking with people, we also encountered people who wanted campaign experience, so our founder organizations try to help get them grassroots organizing experience in case later they are interested in becoming either future elected leaders or campaign managers.”


The going has been tough, but the Project has seen real progress. “The biggest challenge,” Asma noted, is that “people who speak with me ask, ‘how can someone like me get elected?’ The leadership in Orange County all comes from one demographic, and the people we speak with aren’t used to seeing a leadership whose backgrounds reflect their own communities. It’s a real cultural shift to believe that someone like yourself can get elected.” (Latinos, for example, constitute 34.2% of the population in Orange County, but there are no Latinos on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.)


Asma, who grew up in Orange County, turned both to local community organizations and her own network to find people who might be interested in public leadership roles. “The initial phase of searching for people was really difficult because the same few names came up as referrals from everyone I talked to. It just showcases that there are prospective leaders who are being overlooked…I really had to reach out by asking every single person I met with to refer me to several more people.”


Once Asma has identified people who are interested, each of the Project’s four collaborating organizations can bring its unique resources and knowledge to bear. NALP hosts weekend-long trainings for potential candidates, while Wellstone Action has trained campaign operatives. Progressive Majority offers campaign advising and technical services, and Emerge CA runs a 7-month leadership training program for progressive women candidates.


Currently, Orange County is widely seen as a conservative stronghold, with 41.8% of voters registered as Republican, compared to 31.7% Democrat, as of 2012. (22% decline to state.) Yet the interest in new leadership is there. “Turnout is one of our biggest successes,” said Asma. “The first training session I organized, I set a goal of getting 30 people to come and worried whether we would meet it. We ended up with about double that. Turnout has always exceeded our expectations.”


Interested parties who wish to support the Pipeline Project can reach out to Gloria Totten at gtotten@progressivemajority.org.


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