Aug 18, 2022 - World

Report: California's Latinos lack political power

Data: UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Institute ; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Latinos' political power remains significantly underrepresented in California despite their plurality status, emerging studies and data points show.

Driving the news: In report last week, the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute said it found Latinos woefully underrepresented on the most populous state's boards and commissions appointed by the executive branch.

  • Just 18% of California boards and commissions members are Latino, though they account for four in 10 of the state's residents. White non-Hispanics, who are 36.5% of the population, make up 48% of the appointments.
  • Such boards and commissions have a hand in massive budgets and regulation of everything from prisons to agriculture.

Why it matters: Census data shows the Latino populations booming, from North Dakota to Pennsylvania. California, where Latinos have had a longer history, offers lessons about the challenges of achieving parity when it comes to political representation.

What they’re saying: “Boards and commissions are a pathway to political power,” Paul Barragan-Monge, an author of the UCLA report, tells Axios Latino. He said to build that pipeline, communities must apply a “level of intentionality" to filling positions of authority.

  • The report cites several avenues, including: Limiting the practice of reappointing the same people to boards; mandating state tracking of the demographic makeup of gubernatorial appointees; directing proportional representation by race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or other factors.

The big picture: 11% of California's judges are Latino, according to the latest Judicial Council data. California hasn’t had a Latino governor since 1875; Sen. Alex Padilla (D) last year became the state's first Latino U.S. senator.

  • California does have Latino representation on the state Supreme Court and legislature. Judge Patricia Guerrero was nominated last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to be the first Latina chief justice of California’s Supreme Court.
  • 17 of the state’s 53 representatives in Congress identify as Hispanic, and the California Assembly is led by Anthony Rendon.
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