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Change on the Horizon - Winning Women

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

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Mark Simon

November 19, 2020

(see italicized section below for WIRE News)

As the 2020 election fades rapidly in the rearview mirror, let’s spend a few more moments assessing what happened before we all hunker down for Thanksdemic, or Pangiving or whatever you want to call a holiday in a year that has tested our capacity for thankfulness. Thankocity. Thankitude.

Anyway, some final and random observation …

I write often here about change coming to the Peninsula, and the 2020 election was an affirmation that our politics have reached a pivot point. The diversification of our population is beginning to manifest itself in our local elected offices. This is being led by younger generations increasingly dissatisfied and impatient with a status quo long dominated solely by white males.

We saw more women elected to local office, more persons of color and more persons who are openly gay or nonbinary. In addition, we saw the first inroads made by self-described progressives, people identified with the Democratic Socialist movement spearheaded by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The significance of this is that the next level of electeds — county supervisor, state legislators, federal legislators — comes from local offices. These are first steps and they are likely to be marked by slow progress — we know that the array of voters who showed up in this election is atypical in both size and inclinations. But the Peninsula now can safely be called one of the most diverse and progressive places in California and America.

It also may be that are divided as sharply as the rest of the country — not along partisan lines, but generational and demographic lines. But the clearest point of delineation is in the issues and priorities. Certainly, land use will remain a major issue category on the Peninsula, but the next generation of leadership is going to want a solution to the housing shortage, and is likely to abandon the old patterns of growth and development that threaten to turn the area into a wealthy enclave. And there will be other issues that will rise to the top, issues that grow out of the very diversity that defines the changes that are coming.

WINNING WOMEN: It was a big year for women candidates running in the dozens of city council and school board races on the Peninsula, a reality confirmed by data amassed by Carol Mayer Marshall, founder of Wire for Women, which focuses on electing women to nonpartisan offices on the Peninsula.

This year, 107 women ran for these offices in San Mateo County, double the number who ran in 2016. Those numbers are skewed a bit by the decision by most cities and school boards to move their elections to even-numbered years, when statewide balloting occurs. The more telling number is this: 78 of the women candidates won, or 73%. By contrast, 76 men ran for nonpartisan offices, and 32 won, or 42 percent.

Mayer Marshall noted that after the 2016 election 40% of city council seats in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties were held by women. After the 2018 election, it was 48%. In 2020, that number jumped to 52% — women are the majority in Peninsula city council seats. In 2022, Wire for Women will direct its attention to special districts.


***UPDATE December 3, 2020.

WIRED WOMEN: The final tallies from this year’s election affirm that it has been a remarkable year of gains for women in local offices. I reported a couple of columns ago on data compiled by Carol Mayer Marshall, founder of Wire for Women, which focuses on electing women to nonpartisan offices on the Peninsula.

She provided final tallies and when everyone takes office in 2021, women and men will be just about even on city councils. In San Mateo County, women will hold 48 council seats (42 %) and men will hold 54 seats (58%). In Santa Clara, women will hold he majority of council seats — 49 seats (52%) and men will hold 46 seats (48%).

Taken as a whole in the region we generally refer to as the Peninsula (well, I do, anyway), women will hold 97 seats (49%) to 100 seats (51%) by men.


MODEL BEHAVIOR: In marked contrast to the petulant behavior shown by President Trump, three Peninsula city council candidates — Lisa Diaz Nash, Rich Garbarino and Janet Borgens — showed class and grace in concession statements acknowledging their losses and congratulating their winning opponents. Losing is never easy, but all three showed how it should be done, and, ultimately, demonstrated their own commitment to the public.

TWO MORE EXAMPLES: As of this writing, Measure Y, the height limit in San Mateo, was leading by the skin of its teeth, with the trend line working in its favor. Proposition 15, the change to Proposition 13 lost by about 670,000 votes. In each case, it signals a shift in public attitudes. Proposition 13 is no longer untouchable, and revisionists will try again. And the anti-growth forces no longer rule the roost in San Mateo. The Yes on Y forces would be wise to be humble in victory and to make overtures that recognize a new reality.

FINALLY: This week, nearly 250,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Even as the numbers grow exponentially, there are those who still insist this health crisis is overblown. Consider this, then: By the end of the month, it is likely the number of Americans dead from the pandemic will surpass the 258,000 Southerners killed in the Civil War. I don’t know why this particular number has stuck with me, but it has.

Please be careful. Be thoughtful. Be considerate. Be safe. Please.

Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at

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