Only one group of women outshone all of the Latino leaders in the Sacramento region during the 18th Annual convening of the Latino Leaders Reception.
Who were they?
The record-breaking number of Latina elected officials at the state Capitol.
Last Wednesday evening at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Sacramento, Latino leaders in business, law, constitutional officers, appointees, and leaders in the governmental sector gathered for the highly anticipated annual awards presentation and recognition of state elected officials.
In previous years, the annual event takes place in January when lawmakers return from legislative holiday, but this year, the event was postponed due to a number of unforeseen circumstances.
“Family issues and finding the right time to do this event where the most people would be able to attend are the reasons for the late gathering,” said José Pérez, publisher of the Latino Journal.
This year, the spotlight was shone on the Latina women who successfully ran for elected office and made history by becoming the largest group of Latinas to do so.
“Last year, the Latino Legislative Caucus came together and decided that we would make it a priority to ensure that more Latinas get elected to office. We continue to hear how Latinas are underrepresented in politics and that is something we set out to change,” said state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego.
Every year, the Latino Caucus lays out its policy agenda for the year, highlighting the most important bills they will collectively endorse while also taking initiatives in areas they would like to see improvement. Given the small number of Latinas who in previous years, have been less represented in the state Legislature, Hueso said the Caucus wanted to make a difference.
“This was the most important year for us. We brought amazing new leaders to the Capitol. They are advocates, strong, committed and dedicated women who are passionate about their work and about their role here in Sacramento,” said Hueso.
This year, the caucus also saw an addition of Latinos at the highest levels of government with the election of California State Secretary Alex Padilla and the recent appointment of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The caucus is currently exploring ways to include these two constitutional officers into their agenda and legislative priorities.
“This is all new to us. We have never had Latinos at this level of government. It is exciting and we are fortunate, but now we need to figure out how we can all advance a strong and similar agenda to benefit all of California,” said Hueso.
This year, members of the caucus collectively have introduced 65 bills, he added. Thirty of those bills are priority and they range from immigration to affordable housing.
“These bills reflect our values as a state,” he said.
The reception, which included light appetizers and networking, hosted more than 200 guests.
Members of CAFE (Chicano Latino State Employees Association) delivered the ‘Latina Spirit Awards’ to the 11 Latinas currently in the state Assembly. The State Senate does not have any Latina representatives.
“We need to continue to bring women to the forefront, whether that is encouraging them to run for elected office, or helping them, or motivating them– we need to do whatever it takes to ensure they have a seat at the table,” he said.
For the first time in years, the Latino Leaders Reception, which is usually attended by a majority Latino Democratic elected officials, invited two Latino Republican elected officials including Assemblymember Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, to share a few words on their work at the State Capitol.
Newly-elected Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, who represents the 38th Assembly District and who was elected last November, spoke on a need for Latinos to unite across party lines.
“It is important that we unite on issues that are important to us and find our common bond that makes us Latinos, not focus on what political party we side with. In this time, it is important to find what we have in common and to find solutions to what we deem the most imperative,” said Acosta.
Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, spoke of her desire to run for office despite the odds.
“I never thought I would be running for elected office, especially because I was undocumented when I was 8-years-old and now, I have an office at the state Capitol,” said Rubio who was met with a standing ovation.
“If I can beat the odds, so can every single woman in this state,” she added.