SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s state Senate currently has 39 senators, and only one of them is African American.
However, there’s still one seat up for election this spring following former Senator Holly Mitchell's departure to join Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors.
As the only Black person left in the Californis State Senate, Senator Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, says there needs to be better representation at the Capitol, which is why he’s pushing for a person of color to fill the last seat in the State Senate.
He noted that by simply being an African American legislator, he’s easily recognized by protesters as soon as he walks outside the state Capitol building.
“I’m quickly accosted because people know who I am even if they’ve never met me before,” Bradford said.
He’s one of nine African Americans in the legislature, but the only Black member of the state Senate. Bradford added that he not only faces obstacles outside of the building, but he’s also worried he won’t have the support he needs from his colleagues on the Senate floor.
“I know there’s going to be some pushback on some of the issues that are critically important to the Black caucus especially in areas of criminal justice reform,” Bradford said.
He’s been in the state legislature for 10 years and is now the longest serving member of the Black caucus. Bradford added that there’s only ever been two Black people at a time in the California Senate since he’s been a legislator. Last year, it was only him and former Senator Mitchell.
Bradford says it’s crucial for another person of color to fill Mitchell’s seat. Currently, Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, who represents Baldwin Hills, is running for the position.
“When you look in the state Capitol and you don’t see anyone who looks like you, no one who shares your experiences, who’s going to look through the same lens you’re looking through to talk about policy, to talk about budget priorities, it could be really disheartening,” Kamlager said.
So far, she’s been endorsed by Supervisor Mitchell and the California Democratic Party. Kamlager explained that not only should a person of color fill the seat, but a woman of color should be chosen for the role.
“It is really critical that Black women have a seat at the table in the state Senate of the fifth largest economy of the world, the state of California,” Kamlager added.
The special election for the final seat in the state Senate will take place on May 4.
Bradford noted that even though he’ll remain the only Black senator for the time being, he’ll continue to do all he can to be a voice for minorities.
“People of color, Black and brown, are being impacted the most. We have to make sure those voices are heard, so I as a sole member right now – all that falls on my shoulders, but I’m going to definitely advocate to make sure that our voices are heard in the issues and that the issues are being brought forth in the Senate,” Bradford said.
He hopes one day the legislature will resemble the full diversity of California.