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Keep Eggman as women's caucus chair

by BAR Editorial Board

Keep Eggman as women's caucus chair

Last week, the state Assembly Women's Caucus named lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman as its acting interim chair. The move was necessary because Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia had decided to voluntarily step down amid accusations of sexual harassment.

The caucus, which is bipartisan, should consider keeping Eggman in the post, as the Stockton Democrat has the skills and experience to guide it through this difficult time.

Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) won national attention as part of the #Me Too movement in the Capitol. She was among the women featured on the cover of Time magazine's "Person of the Year" issue, which honored the "Silence Breakers." Now, she is accused of groping a male colleague and urging her staff to play "spin the bottle" after a fundraiser, as Politico reported this week. She is on an unpaid voluntary leave of absence and is facing a legislative investigation.

The accusations against Garcia are serious, and give ammunition to critics of #MeToo. While the movement has succeeded in removing numerous powerful men from their jobs over a range of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment, charges made against women have been rare; but when it happens it should be treated equally. It would be hypocritical to dismiss allegations against Garcia while simultaneously calling for the ouster of similarly accused male colleagues. And the Capitol is engulfed in such investigations now: Two lawmakers have resigned, another quit for health reasons.

Eggman won the respect of voters in her Central Valley district. She's been re-elected twice and is expected to easily win re-election this year. She's a strong leader and a member of the legislative LGBT and Latino caucuses. She has demonstrated an ability to work effectively with different groups. She also doesn't give up in the face of defeat. One of her unsuccessful efforts last year was a bill - co-authored with gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) - to authorize safe injection sites in various California cities, including San Francisco. While that bill did not pass, it's expected to be reconsidered this year. One consequence of the narrow loss was an increased public awareness of the issue, and that can only help as California grapples with addiction and access to mental health and substance abuse services.

For her part, Eggman, in a statement, was modest about her appointment leading the women's caucus: "I am humbled that my colleagues have placed their faith and trust in me to lead the caucus during these challenging times and I look forward to working closely with Vice Chair Senator [Connie] Leyva and the rest of my colleagues in the caucus as we work to promote the well-being of women, children, and families in California."

She's right. Helping women, children, and families is key, and numerous bills will soon be debated on other critical issues such as housing. Electing more women to the Legislature would help end the "old boy's network" that seems to permeate statehouses and Congress (and many other professions). In fact, that's one of the goals of the Women's Caucus. According to its website, the caucus "seeks to increase participation and representation of women in state government. Members of the Legislative Women's Caucus seek to promote sound legislative policies and budget priorities that will improve the well-being of women, children and families and to work cooperatively with local, state, and national women's organizations interested in advancing policies to achieve these same objectives."

Eggman is an excellent choice to lead the caucus, and its members should keep her in that post.

Students take on the NRA
The mass school shooting last week left 17 people dead. As much as this has become a horrific regular occurrence, there is something different about the students who survived the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

They are using their anger to confront lawmakers and are seeking gun control legislation. They'll need others to join them. These kids are articulate on TV, giving interviews and explaining why gun violence must stop. Unfortunately for them, and everyone else who supports gun control, the National Rifle Association controls the debate by using money to influence politicians and working to undermine even the most basic gun safety bills. Politicians promised action after the Las Vegas shooting in October. Nothing has happened.

But this generation of teenagers may be able to do more than that. Savvy users of social media, many of them live-tweeted the bloodshed and the aftermath.

On Monday, a group called Teens for Gun Control staged a "lie-in" near the White House. On March 14, students in the Bay Area are expected to take part in a National School Walkout. For 17 minutes - one for each of the lives lost in Parkland - students and their supporters will demand stricter gun safety laws.

We know it will be a difficult and long battle, but maybe, finally, politicians will begin to get the message and eventually free themselves from the grip of the NRA.


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