Surprising lack of female candidates in LA’s 2013 field

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

With Sen. Boxer (L), Sen. Feinstein (R) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi so prominent on the national stage, why aren’t local CA elections following suit?

The temperature outside is hovering in the low 50’s right now and for SoCal, that’s downright frigid. Despite the cold, however, Los Angeles is heating up for the 2013 elections. The field is now set for the mayor, city attorney, controller and eight city council races.

Out of 57 candidates, there are only 10 females.

“It’s very concerning to hear less and less women are running for office,” said Rachel Michelin, Executive director/CEO of California Women Lead. “It’s really a horrible trend that we saw happening on the state and local level this past election. We are seeing a decline in the number of female candidates and when you see a decline, opportunities to win those seats decline as well.

In 1969, Pat Russell became the fourth women elected to the L.A. city council and the first to be elected president. Since then, there has been at least one woman continuously on the council. In the 1990’s there was a high of five female councilmembers.

Three women are running for mayor and of the eight council races, four have zero women, two have two women and two have one woman.

Michelin believes there are several contributing factors to the decline.

“In Los Angeles, in particular, the cost of running for office is huge. It’s like running for Congress, financially, it’s challenging. If you don’t come in with a base, if you don’t come in with connections who can fund and support you, you’re going to have a tough time.”

She also thinks “Los Angeles is a very political city, it’s very unique. San Francisco is the same way. Unfortunately the past female elected leaders have not done a good job of recruiting, mentoring, and nurturing a team of women who can continue on up.”

The California Women Lead and many other partnering non-profits are working hard to raise awareness “that we need more women willing to step up and take the risk to run for office,” said Michelin.

The organization is also looking at creating a PAC to help fund women candidates.

Only two female candidates are considered well-funded and competitive.

“Men still give more money than women do. Until women are willing to put their money where their mouth is, I think we’re going to continue to have a disadvantage.”

“We need to give women the tools they need to be successful—by building coalitions, developing networks whether on social media or appointments and just overall being prepared.”

That’s why Michelin says the organization is already looking ahead to future elections.

When talking to women to empower them, she recites her favorite quote “as women we are playing by the political rules that were written by men, and we need to start changing the rules because those rules aren’t working for us.”

She adds, “we really need to wake up. Nationally there are great gains for women, yet in California we’re going backwards. The fact we are 52 percent of the population and we’re not moving forward is not good. Our perspective and our point of view on public policies need to be considered. I think it’s time for women to say we are going to change that.”

The Los Angeles elections are on March 5 with runoffs in May in races where candidates don’t get more than 50 percent of the votes.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza