Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn hopes to become the first woman California lieutenant governor. Does gender add a sense of entitlement to her run? Should filling the position be an act of ‘affirmative action’?
2009: Councilwoman Janice Hahn Weighs the Odds
The Daily Breeze reported late in 2009 that Councilwoman Janice Hahn did some polling with remarkably favorable results. An estimated 24 percent of voters (likely to head to the polls in June of 2010) were in favor of the councilwoman when compared to the other Democratic candidates.
Although lost in the tenor of the article, it is worrisome that “Hahn established her exploratory committee in September in hopes of becoming the first woman to serve as California’s lieutenant governor.” There is no mention of her plans – should she win the election – for the university systems board, on which she would hold a seat (if elected). Gender, on the other hand, is highlighted.
Is the California Lieutenant Governorship an Affirmative Action Position?
In the course of her campaign, Janice Hahn released a damaging video of Gavin Newsom – one of her main competitors – who was unable to tell an interviewer what duties the California lieutenant governorship entailed. Perhaps more damning is the announcer’s urging of the voters to “Help elect the first woman Lieutenant Governor.”
It is interesting to note that California voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996, effectively forbidding public institutions from factoring in ethnicity, race or gender when hiring for positions of public employment. Since the position of California lieutenant governor is indeed a public one, it is somewhat odd that Councilwoman Hahn would appeal to recognition of her gender when voters head to the ballot boxes.
Visionary or Caught up in Antiquated Rhetoric?
The mystical glass ceiling played a huge role when Hillary Clinton sought to win the American presidency. Sarah Palin is quoted(*) as saying that “Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest hardest glass ceiling” during her run alongside John McCain.
The California chapter of the National Organization for Women would agree that this is still the case in the CA. Out of 120 members of the legislature – in 2008 – only 33 were women. Of course, considering that the voters decide which candidates are ultimately elected – there is no shortage of women running for office – is it not rather likely that it is not the glass ceiling but a lack of qualifications in the women who are running that causes the disparity in numbers?
So … is Councilwoman Janice Hahn a good choice for California lieutenant governor because she is a woman? If she loses, is gender to blame or her politics and rhetoric?
(*)Game Change by John Heilemann, Mark Halperin; p. 365