SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Women now make up nearly a third of the California Legislature — an all-time record, according to an advocacy group that recruits female candidates.
The milestone comes with Tuesday's swearing-in of Assemblywoman Mia Bonta after a special election last week in the San Francisco Bay Area's 18th Assembly District.
She replaces her husband, Rob Bonta, who left in April after being appointed state attorney general. Mia Bonta bolsters Democrats' supermajority in the closing week of the legislative session, which ends Friday.
Thirty-nine of the state's 120 lawmakers are now women, or 32.5%.
That's a record and up 11% from just four years ago, when the state hit a 20-year low and women made up only about one in five California legislators, according to Close the Gap California.
The group recruits “diverse, progressive women” to challenge Republicans, and Bonta credited the organization for helping her campaign.
She defeated fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandran, who had argued that Bonta wasn't progressive enough to represent the liberal Alameda County district.
Both moved on from an eight-way special primary election in June under California's process that advances the top two vote-getters regardless of political affiliation. Bonta prevailed, 57% to Ramachandran's 43%.
“It has been a whirlwind of a journey to be able to get here," Bonta said Tuesday as she was introduced to her new colleagues.
Bonta is the Legislature's first Afro-Latina and the first Black woman from north of Los Angeles since now-U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee won her final state Senate term in 1996, the group said.
Of the 39 female lawmakers, the group said 24 are women of color. That's more than double the national legislative average.
Racial background aside, the group said California ranks 21st among states in number of women in the Legislature. It is aiming for gender parity by 2028, a goal it says is attainable because more than 80% of current lawmakers will be termed out of office by then.