State Senate Leader Says Women Having a Political Moment

1 min
California State Sen. Toni Atkins in Sacramento on May 15, 2017. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

It’s been 100 years since the first women were elected to the California Legislature. In 1918, four women won seats in the state Assembly, seven years after women were granted the right to vote in California. (Women won the right to vote in California in 1911).

This centennial year could be another big one for women in politics, both in California and across the country. Following the 2016 presidential election and the rise of the #MeToo movement, record numbers of women are running for office. State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said now is the time for women to get politically involved.

“We have a moment," Atkins said at a recent Public Policy Institute of California event. "And what I want more than anything is for us not to lose this moment. Because if we lose it now, it might not come again for some time.”

The lack of women in office is especially notable in the California Legislature. Out of a total of 120 seats, there are currently nine women in the Senate and 19 in the Assembly. Atkins said those who are serving must mentor other women and give them opportunities to advance. And she said women who are passionate and involved in various issues should consider the next step.

"But then seriously think, could I be someone to be appointed, elected or run?" she asked.

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But while the excitement is high this election cycle, some are concerned the enthusiasm could ultimately work against women in November. State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said women have to be strategic about running.

"If there's only one or two men candidates in that particular race and six to eight women, which is the case in many of the congressional seats right now, then the women are not going to have as good of a shot," Skinner said.

In California, a surge of women, particularly Democrats, have expressed an interest in running for office.

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