Capitol Alert

White men hold most California offices

Members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus discuss their budget priorities at the State Capitol on May 20, 2014.
Members of the California Legislative Women's Caucus discuss their budget priorities at the State Capitol on May 20, 2014. The Sacramento Bee

Campaign season offers promises of fresh faces and new ideas, but one constant remains: even in a state as diverse as California, white men dominate public office.

That’s the provocative finding from a new website assessing how much elected officials match the electorate. Funded by a San Francisco-based group called the Women Donors Network, a survey of tens of thousands of officeholders finds that white males hold a disproportionate share of elected positions in the United States and in California.

While white men account for just 19 percent of the state’s population, they hold 55 percent of elected offices from the county level up. Women of color, by contrast, make up nearly a third of the state’s population and account for just seven percent of elected officials. Men of color make up 30 percent of the population but command 16 percent of public offices.

With the California Legislature led by a Latino man and a lesbian, you might be forgiven for thinking the ranks of California’s public servants are more diverse. The state did fare better than others, ranking number 20 overall in terms of how closely the demographics of the state predict the makeup of officeholders.

But criticisms about the low rate of women and Californians of color in public life persist across campaign cycles regardless of leadership in Sacramento. A group called CALIFORNIALIST that encourages women to run for office disseminated an email warning the coming election could leave women with only 21 percent of the seats in the State Legislature.

“The California Senate and Assembly are the training grounds for national office,” CALIFORNIALIST president Bettina Duval said in a statement. “As the number of women in the state Legislature declines, it’s only a matter of time before we lose positions of power and representation at the national level.”

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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