Congress doesn’t look much like America. And state legislatures aren’t any better. Congress is currently 80 percent male, 80 percent non-Hispanic white, and over 50 percent millionaires. In short, legislatures are a rich, white, men’s club. But the good news is, there is a trend toward diversity in Congress among every metric, except socioeconomic.
Since the Virginia legislature doesn’t look much better, we were intrigued by several of yesterday’s primary winners. Here are some women to watch that could shake things up come November:
Danica Roem of District 13 is getting all the press today, as she would be the first transgender woman in the state legislature. And she faces a notoriously bigoted opponent who has opposed same-sex marriage (and persists in referring to Ms. Roem as “he.”)
Jennifer Foy ran a close race in District 2. Kathy Tran handily beat her opponent in District 13. Elizabeth Guzman won in District 31, and would be the first Latina woman in the legislature, if she wins her race. All three of these districts, along with Ms. Roem’s, have been identified as “flippable” by our eponymous ally. Ms. Tran has also been endorsed by our allies at New Politics.
And we also congratulate Hala Ayala in District 51, and Kimberly Anne Tucker in District 81. We know all these races, even in ‘safe’ districts, will be challenging, because in one way or another these candidates are all outsiders to the club. They may be far more qualified than their opponents in every way, but they are competing not only with individuals, but with powerful networks. The old boys’ network is alive and well in political life, and is a big reason why Congress isn’t more diverse. Elected officials continue to cultivate, pull in, do favors for, and endorse people who are like them. But we know diversity makes for better public policy. So how do we help others to break in?
That’s why Diversity Matters exists. We offer a peer network to Diversity Declaration candidates, connecting them with like-minded candidates and with organizations and networks that can support them. This peer network can, over time, help provide them with the connections and resources to stand up to well-connected and well-heeled opponents, win seats, and represent ALL of us.
We’ll be reaching out to candidates throughout the next several months. Join us, and help build a bench of legislators that look more like all of America.