1. Research open districts
We research voter registration, voting trends, racial and ethnic composition and whether a district has sent a woman to the legislature or voted for a woman for statewide office. We seek guidance from our Board and Steering Committee of activist former elected women as well as locally elected women and long-time leaders of women’s and progressive efforts in the district, including education, environment, labor and social justice organizations. This research helps us determine whether a progressive candidate can win and suggests a profile for a viable woman candidate for each district.
2. Target winnable seats
We reviewed all open seats for both upcoming election cycles, eliminating districts where the current field of candidates is so established and well-funded that only an extraordinary circumstance would result in victory by a newcomer. We also eliminated districts whose registration is heavily Republican and whose voting history favors conservatives. Here’s what we have to work with:
2014 = 28 open seats 23 Term Limited 5 vacated 14 targets
2016 = 35 open seats 29 Term Limited 6* vacated 22* targets
Eight of the 32 women legislators are term-limited out or vacating their seat early in 2014; two R and 6 D. In order to simply hold the line, 8 new women must be elected. Of the 28 open seats in 2014, we believe 14 can be won by progressive women. Of these, women are running in 6 and we continue to search in the other eight.
Our goal over the two elections is to reach 45 women or 37% of the legislature. It is a high bar, indeed, but do-able and significant in terms of changing the institution. Research suggests that at 33% participation, women affect the agenda, procedures, content and outcomes.
3. Find great women
Once an open seat district is a target, we create a list of prospective candidates in consultation with:
Partners: Planned Parenthood Affiliates of CA, supporters of more robust funding for public schools and non-profit heads working with under-served communities.
Women’s community allies: thus far, 28 women’s political organizations have joined forces with us to identify excellent prospects.
Progressive allies: progressive environmental, labor, education and social justice organizations are contributing names; and we are working to add health advocates, government reform and consumer advocates the next quarter.
Former and current elected women: make recommendations and review names in their regions.
Regional “Search Parties:” close the gap CA has convened a dozen regional meetings of women’s and progressive organizations in areas where there are multiple target districts. These meetings are designed to elicit names outside traditional political channels. Women are asked to identify leaders they admire from the non-profit, social service and business worlds and in some regions, agriculture and sustainability. Attendees provide names on an ongoing basis. San Diego, Indio, Orange, Los Angeles, San Jose, Lafayette, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Napa have hosted one or more “search parties.”
4. Identify viable prospective candidates
Through on-line research, opinion leader interviews and one-on-one meetings, the list of prospective candidates for each winnable district is weeded and prioritized:
A strong contender
B a possibility: need more information
C not ready yet
- a community profile, a visible leader on an effort, issue, event
- base of public support, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
- ability to raise money
- connections to public policy
- familiarity with political activity and individuals
- Does this candidate fit the district?
- Which progressive groups would be excited by this candidacy?
- What are this candidate’s competitive advantages in terms of: geography, experience – personal and professional — ideology, education, age, racial and ethnic communities and alliances?
5. Explore a candidacy with prospect
Once a prospect is deemed viable, close the gap CA works to provide her with the connections and experiences that will help her make a good decision about running. We introduce prospects to elected women mentors, training and leadership programs; connect them to policy experts and political operatives who can demystify campaigns; and to fundraising groups and consultants.
Then, it’s up to her!
*These numbers represent preliminary projections.