Emily’s List jumps into the California fray


Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel during her Los Angeles mayoral run-off election against Councilman Eric Garcetti on May 21, 2013. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Well, that was fast.  Just two days after activist Sandra Fluke decided against running for Congress, settling instead for a shot at a seat in the California senate, much to the relief of major progressive political players,  Emily’s List has announced its support for former mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel in the race to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

“Wendy Greuel has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a public servant fighting for education, small businesses, and government accountability for California families,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. “The EMILY’s List community – now more than three million members strong – is excited to support Wendy’s campaign to be a strong voice for the women and families of California’s 33rd congressional district.”

The press release goes on to note Greuel’s longstanding ties to Los Angeles, where she has spent her professional and political career, including working as a lobbyist for the entertainment company DreamWorks before being elected to the Los Angeles City Council and  later to the post of City Controller.  Fluke, who has a big national platform, has none of those ties, which just made her a weaker candidate.

Fluke’s decision to step back sparked discussion in some corners about old school political traditions that hold back ambitious young women. A recent study by the Center for Women and Politics found this:

As might be expected, women demonstrate greater interest in local level offices; women are significantly more likely than men to select school board as the first office for which they might run. Men are more likely to identify a state office. Further, 15 percent of men, compared to only 7 percent of women, identify a federal office as their first choice. In terms of interest in any of the offices women and men are most similar in their interest in local level office; the gender gap in interest gradually increases with increases in the level of office.

Asked whether this was the case in her decision to pass on the congressional race, Fluke told She The People that she wasn’t forgoing a shot at the “brass ring,” instead she was going for the seat that best suited her goals right now.  She also pointed to another trend that her candidacy to could address:  The number of women in the California state legislature–a hotbead of progressivism–is declining. In 2006, there were 37 women in the 120-member state legislature; now there are 32.

“We have been losing a woman every election cycle,”  Bettina Duval, president of CALIFORNIALIST, told the Associated Press.  Her group, founded over a decade ago, has raised over $1 million to support female candidates.

Not only does Fluke’s decision means there won’t be an intra-woman’s group skirmish over two high-profile female candidates, it also creates an opportunity for a woman to pick up a seat in Congress and in the State Senate. Both seats that are now occupied by men. Fluke is seeking the seat held by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D), who is running for Waxman’s seat and is considered a frontrunner.

Greuel has picked up high profile endorsements not only from Emily’s List, but also from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Fluke said she will roll out endorsements soon.

Prediction, Emily’s List will endorse Fluke, although a spokeswoman wouldn’t say so when asked Friday.

“California has always been on the forefront of electing strong Democratic women to office–we are excited to add to the momentum with key opportunities in 2014,” said Marcy Stech, press secretary for Emily’s List.

Nia-Malika Henderson is a political reporter for The Fix.
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