June 3, 2023

Feinstein won a bruise in the 1990 Democratic primaries for governor, defeating a well-known male frontrunner, John Van de Kamp, but lost the general election to a Republican senator, Pete Wilson, as Iraq invaded Kuwait and the state slid inward. a recession. When Meg Whitman, a Republican technology executive, lost her bid for governor in 2010, as California became increasingly liberal and struggled to emerge from the global financial crisis, Jerry Brown’s victory was seen not so much as a referendum on her gender, but as a referendum on her party. , its staggering campaign spending and its enduring popularity among Democrats.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said one of the reasons California has yet to elect a female governor may be that in recent decades neither state has prioritized developing and positioning of female office bearers.

“The men in power line up and get out early,” Walsh said. “I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of never having to think about gender equality in a liberal state like California, but in fact you do.”

More women have run for office and been elected in recent years, supported by targeted political initiatives and, experts say, cultural drivers such as the #MeToo movement and efforts to preserve abortion rights. Mary Hughes, founder of Close the Gap, a gender equality campaign at the state capitol, said her group had helped raise the proportion of female legislators from about 22 percent in 2016 to about 42 percent.

More women may end up at the top of the 2026 state chart. For example, Representatives Katie Porter and Barbara Lee are among the top contenders, alongside Representative Adam Schiff, to succeed Feinstein in the Senate next year; depending on the outcome of that race, one or more of them may run to campaign for governor. Toni Atkins, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and Fiona Ma, the state treasurer, have announced plans to run for lieutenant governor.