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    Women Leaders Shine at Democratic State Convention

    lesliePhotos courtesy of Leslie Katz

    Now that it is Women’s History Month, it seems appropriate to take a look at some of the extraordinary women elected officials in California. At the recent Democratic State Convention in San Jose, there was no shortage of star power in the elected official sphere.

    Saturday morning started with the Women’s Caucus meeting, chaired by Christine Pelosi. She lined up a parade of incredible speakers, all of whom shared highlights from their careers—including some high and low moments and pithy lines—but I think Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi summed it up best. She said that when she is asked how she keeps the House Democrats so together, she responds that it is our shared values: of equality, of ensuring economic opportunities for all, and of providing health and educational access for everyone. She, many others and I believe that such shared values strengthen our ability to win the White House and the legislature this election cycle.

    Christine pointed out that women are focused, united and clear on the path forward. (I won’t comment on how the presidential candidates across the aisle seem a bit more preoccupied by playground taunts.) We heard from Rep. Maxine Waters, who articulated why she is so supportive of Hillary Clinton. She made the point that we won’t see real change in representation of women in corporate America until we have a woman in the White House. She noted that not until there were more women in the House and Senate did she start to see women representing entities on issues facing the legislature.


    Holly Mitchell, who spoke, was praised for her mentorship. Barbara Lee was roundly cheered for her constant and clear articulation of values. A poignant time then arrived when Barbara Boxer addressed the hundreds and hundreds of women who have been among her staunchest supporters. This was her last Democratic Convention as a U.S. Senator, and she rallied the crowd, just as she did later in the day when she addressed the entire Convention from the floor.

    Senator Boxer talked about her path to the Senate, which was not easy. As a member of Congress, she was told by a male U.S. Senator that she was not welcome…so she then ran for the Senate! He no doubt rued the day that he was such a mysogynist. Senator Boxer also said that this is finally the time to have a woman in the White House. We will not take the path of the other party that has sunk so low in their approach, but as Congresswoman Pelosi said, we will address the issues of moving forward, and of offering values that are shared by the majority of this country.


    Luckily, it appears likely that we will still have a strong, talented woman representing California in the U.S. Senate. Attorney General Kamala Harris received 78% of the vote from the Delegates to win the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in her race to replace outgoing Senator Boxer. She addressed the Convention in the afternoon and spoke eloquently (and as one person said to me, presidentially) about issues and values. She was delighted that the presidential appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court are finally being highlighted as a crucial issue.

    Our community certainly understands what kind of impact SCOTUS has on our daily lives. Attorney General Harris spoke eloquently about reproductive health and privacy rights—again, issues that have been critical to our community. She is frrequently asked to speak about women’s issues, upon which she often responds: “ I am so glad you want to talk about the economy.”

    Her last line underscores the fundamental premise of this column, which is that women are still woefully under-represented in elected office. Consider that the U.S. Congress is now 80 percent male. Looking at the attacks against Hillary Clinton, who is certainly the most qualified candidate of this presidential election cycle, I cannot help but think that if she were not a woman, there would not be any question of supporting her over a reality TV star.

    In reflecting on the incredible talent on display in San Jose, I have hope that there is a strong bench of women rising through the ranks. As Maxine Water, however, said, until we have a woman in the White House, we won’t see the changes that we need to occur at all levels of our society. I am so ready for her!

    Leslie R. Katz is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the co-author of the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, has served on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (as Chair, and as a general member), and serves on the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board. She is an attorney with a government law, policy and strategy practice, with a focus on emerging technologies.