Capitol Alert

Gubernatorial candidates gather to discuss issues that matter to black women

A first-of-its-kind forum is coming Tuesday to the Crest Theatre: Gubernatorial candidates talking about issues that directly impact African American women, hosted by African American women.

“From what we can find, this is the first time across the country, let alone in California, that a forum of this nature has come together,” said Melanie Shelby, a public affairs strategist and managing director of Gray, Greer, Shelby & Vaughn in Oakland.

Candidates John Chiang, Delaine Eastin and Antonio Villaraigosa are expected to address questions about economic security, jobs, housing, health, political empowerment, criminal and social justice. Shelby, who will moderate the event, said organizers were told Gavin Newsom has a scheduling conflict preventing him from participating. Newsom’s campaign said he committed to speaking at an LA County Democrats meeting before he received an invitation to the forum.

Shelby said frustration prompted the “Our Time to Engage, Inform and Vote: 2018 Gubernatorial Issues Forum.”

African American women continue to be an influential and reliable voting bloc for Democrats – more than 90 percent supported Hillary Clinton. Yet they remain underrepresented in elected office across the country: one black woman in the U.S. Senate, 18 black women in U.S. House of Representatives and two in statewide elected offices, according to a study by the Center for American Women and Politics, Higher Heights and Rutgers University.

Data also show that nearly one in every four African American women live in poverty in California, a state controlled by Democrats at every level of public office.

“Everyone always relies on our vote, but nobody talks to us about that, so we wanted to make it happen,” Shelby said.

Shelby said she and other women leaders in business and politics rallied together last year to begin working on the forum, which they intend to repeat after the primary. U.S. Rep Karen Bass, Sen. Holly Mitchell, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and Autumn Burke and political activist and strategist Glynda Carr sit on the forum’s honorary host committee. More than two dozens other women comprise the steering committee.

The two-hour forum begins at 5:30 p.m. Attendees should register here.

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WORTH REPEATING: “It’s a kind of slacktivism.” – Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, criticizing his colleagues for passing a resolution opposing offshore oil drilling rather than calling their members of Congress

CASE COUNT: Lawyers hired by the Senate and Assembly are currently investigating 16 different cases involving sexual harassment or assault allegations against state legislators, employees or lobbyists.

The Senate is in the midst of six probes, according to data provided in response to a public record’s request. Two of those investigations are focused on sexual harassment allegations against Democratic Sens. Tony Mendoza, who is currently on leave, and Bob Hertzberg. The Senate confirmed a third case against a sitting senator, but has not disclosed the lawmaker in question. Three other cases are against Senate staff members, lobbyists or others.

Meanwhile, lawyers are probing 10 different sexual harassment allegations for the Assembly, according to the speaker’s office. Three of the cases are presumably against Democratic lawmakers who have been the subject of media reports: Assemblymen Matt Dababneh and Raul Bocanegra, who both resigned last year, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who temporarily stepped down last week. The Assembly has not said how many of the other open cases are against additional lawmakers, staff members or others.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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