The number of women holding state office in California is at an all-time low. The percentage of women in the state legislature peaked in 2005 -- at 30.8 percent -- and has been falling ever since.
We've lost one woman in the legislature during each of the past eight years. And this year, we could lose as many as five, dropping the number of women to just 23 percent.
This isn't just a problem for California. It's a national issue. Despite advances at the federal level, women continue to maintain a shockingly small minority in the U.S. Congress with 99 of the 535 seats (18.5 percent). That's a mere 20 of 100 seats in the Senate and 79 of 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
Luckily for Californians, there are some very well qualified women running for state assembly this year, and they have the clout and experience to lead a new wave of women into politics.
Elizabeth Echols, Jacqui Irwin and Suja Lowenthal have all earned my respect, and my endorsement.
Elizabeth Echols is the ideal candidate to carry on the long legacy of representation by women in District 15, representing the people of Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland. She will follow in the footsteps of Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and pick up where Skinner left off.
Jacqui Irwin has a proven track record of working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle. That has been essential to the work she's done in District 44, which includes Thousand Oaks and Oxnard and has large numbers of both Democrats and Republicans. Those skills of compromise and consensus-building will be an asset to her work in Sacramento.
Suja Lowenthal, an immigrant from India, is a wonderful representative of the diversity in District 70 which includes Long Beach and San Pedro. She has gained popularity in the district for tackling its toughest problem: traffic. Her pragmatism is much needed in the Assembly.
These three women cannot win without our support. And we so desperately need them to win.
We have seen a real increase in hostility and polarity in both the state capitol and Washington, D.C., as evidenced by the government shutdown. That political crisis was deescalated only when women took the initiative to reach across the aisle and create a compromise.
Maine Republican Susan Collins and Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski led a bi-partisan group that included most of the 20 women in the Senate. From the Senate floor, they made it clear on October 8 -- a defining day in the crisis -- that enough was enough and compromise on both sides was needed to restart the government.
We need more women at the table of political debate, both at the state and the federal level, and now it's up to us to support the women leading the charge from California.
Get to know these candidates. Send them a check, no matter how small and most importantly, show up to the polls and vote in the primary election on June 3 and the general election on November 4.