Why State Elections Matter

2 min

Most eyes are on Super Tuesday’s Presidential primary, but Paula Reinman says elections for the state legislature deserve voters’ attention.

Like most politically active people I know, I’ve spent the past ten years focused on high-profile elections across the country. Presidential elections, of course, congressional elections where there is a chance to pick up a coveted seat and tight governors’ races offering an opportunity to flip a state — these are the contests that have inspired me to donate, call, text and walk.

I have not given much thought to our state legislature, partly because the high-profile national races crowd everything else out and partly because our Democratic super majority in both houses seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Then a friend ran for state legislature and I worked on the campaign. I learned that our state legislature is failing us on many critical issues. When I talked with friends about the race, I learned that most of them are also focused on national elections and do not know or care much about who our state legislators are.

Here’s why I now care deeply:

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The 40 senators and 80 assembly members who run our state directly control the budgets and policies that are key to our quality of life.

The cost of housing, that runs life-long residents out of their neighborhoods and makes it impossible for my kids to live here. Our response to the existential threat of climate change and the sky-high health care costs that many struggle with. Our schools that perform near the bottom of the country. These are all the purview of our state legislature.

While these are difficult issues for sure, part of our problem is that more money is spent lobbying lawmakers in California than in any other state – nearly $360 million in special-interest money in 2018 from healthcare and pharma, utilities, oil companies and others.

The good news is that our state legislature is powerful and having the right people there can really make a difference.

That’s why it’s important to know who our state's elected representatives are. It’s important to understand who they take money from, whose interests they really have at heart and how they vote. It’s important to choose actively and wisely because they are solving – or not solving – some of the most important problems in our lives.

With a Perspective, I’m Paula Reinman.

Paula Reinman is a marketing and communications professional, living in the East Bay.