While California Democrats rue losing two-thirds majorities in the state Legislature, African-American lawmakers have a more upbeat perspective on Tuesday’s election.
The Legislative Black Caucus is set to claim its largest membership since its founding 47 years ago, expanding from eight members at the end of the last session to eleven who won seats this week. That number will likely grow to twelve since outgoing Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, is favored to win an open state Senate seat in an upcoming special election.
Last session, the caucus did not contain a single member from Northern California. That has changed with the election of two Sacramento-area Assembly members, Jim Cooper, Kevin McCarty, whose father is African-American, and a victory in the East Bay by former Richmond City Councilman Tony Thurmond.
“We’re calling them nontraditional districts – they’re districts that have not historically been represented by an African-American member,” said caucus chair Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.
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Since the caucus does not have a campaign committee capable of making contributions, Mitchell said sitting members cultivated promising candidates with endorsements and by hosting mentoring visits to Sacramento.
Mitchell hopes the election wins will advance the caucus’ long-term focus on boosting educational outcomes for black youth and on what she calls “black enterprise,” a focus on generating economic growth in African-American communities by boosting black-owned businesses.
“To have a larger caucus that can represent our priorities, to have representation on a variety of committees and areas of budget focus, really empowers us to bring forward the plight of the African American in California,” Mitchell said. “You can’t solve these historic, chronic problems in one legislative session.”
Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.