Women lawmakers on decline in Sacramento

The number of women in the California Legislature is on the decline, a trend that — for now — is hitting Democrats, the majority party, more than Republicans.

Nine women legislators from both major parties, including two representing Sonoma County, will be leaving the Capitol after this year's general election. All but two — Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Sen. Norma Torres, D-Pomona — are being forced out because of term limits. Evans, an attorney, is not seeking reelection and Torres is leaving to run in the 35th Congressional District.

"The face of North Coast representation is going to shift dramatically in this next election cycle," said Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, who is termed out in the 4th Assembly District, taking in all of Lake and Napa counties, much of Colusa and Yolo counties, a portion of Solano County and Rohnert Park in Sonoma County. All of the five candidates seeking to succeed her are men.

The nine departing female lawmakers include seven Democrats and two Republicans. Six are in the Assembly and three are in the Senate.

The GOP appears to be better poised to respond, with a number of Republican women expected to take seats previously held by either Democrats or men, according to Allan Hoffenblum, the editor of the California Target Book, which handicaps legislative races.

The departing female lawmakers represent more than a fourth of the Legislature's 32 women, who include 23 Democrats and nine Republicans. The pronounced shift involves a changeover in seats long held by women.

For nearly three decades, Yamada's district has been represented by a woman.

Evans, who is returning to private practice, is likely to be succeeded by a man in the 2nd Senate District, which includes all of Napa, Humboldt, Mendocino and Lake counties, and parts of Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

Between Evans' tenure and that of Pat Wiggins before her, the 2nd District seat has been held eight years by a woman. Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire is the current frontrunner for the seat.

The decline in the number of women legislators is not a new trend, nor is it constant. The fluctuation has been more pronounced among Democrats than Republicans.

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