Welcome to Take Two, drawn from The Sacramento Bee editorial board’s daily opinion-politics newsletter, The Take. Please go to sacbee.com/site-services/newsletters/ to sign up.
A long time ago
Pundits called 1992 “The Year of the Woman,” silly shorthand for the election when four women, count ’em four, were elected to the U.S. Senate, including California Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. Hoping to re-up, DiFi is asking voters for another six-year term in 2018. The “Year of the Woman” was 25 years ago, the dark ages when it comes to women’s rights and influence. But in Sacramento, 147 women who are current and former legislators, lobbyists, attorneys and consultants made clear how little has changed by signing a powerful #MeToo letter.
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The line is worth repeating: “As women leaders in politics, in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality, you might assume our experience has been different. It has not. Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces. … They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.” Creeps haven’t learned much in 25 years.
The signatories didn’t name names. But as it happened, The Bee’s Alexei Koseff got hold of settlement documents detailing a $100,000 pay-out to a former aide to the one-term mess of an Assemblyman, Steve Fox, D-Palmdale. It seems Fox displayed a part of himself no one would willingly see. This from a guy who left little mark in the Legislature beyond carrying a bill to combat bullying. “I basically lost my career at the Capitol, and I lost most of my friends there,” Nancy Kathleen Finnigan, who was Fox’s legislative director, told Koseff.
Why protect them?
The Fox settlement was struck in April but only became public because of Koseff’s doggedness. He had to file a request under the Legislative Open Records Act to get the settlement. If legislative leaders were serious about rooting out sick behavior, they would establish a rule that they would shame miscreants by naming them in press releases that publicly disclose the findings and amounts of any settlement. For good measure, they also should open old files that are hidden away. Who are they protecting, and why?
KdL vs. DiFi
Erika D. Smith was not pleased that Feinstein is seeking another six-year term, writing that the silver ceiling is alive and well. Nor was California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León. De León, who was 25 and living in Santa Barbara when Feinstein was elected to the Senate in 1992, is termed out of the Legislature, and decided to challenge Feinstein next year. Billionaire Tom Steyer also was mulling a run.
Having written an op-ed urging a challenge to Feinstein, Rep. Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley Democrat, quickly endorsed de León, saying: “Kevin represents the future of California’s Democratic Party.” But most Democratic pols sided with DiFi, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Kamala Harris (who succeeded Boxer last year), Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and the entire Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. They worried that a donnybrook in California for what should be a safe Democratic seat would divert efforts to protect Democratic senators in battleground states and to flip Republican-held House seats.
De León says he’s being “respectful” of Feinstein. But the son of immigrants in a state of immigrants told an editorial board member: “We’re the most diverse state in the country. One would think … that on the issue of immigration, we would have a leading voice. That has fallen to other states.” So as women from both parties join the #MeToo letters, voters will face a clear choice.