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Clinton Or Sanders? California Legislative Women's Caucus Split

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California Legislative Women's Caucus Chair Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) announces the caucus's priorities for the coming year at the state Capitol Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

When members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus announced their policy goals for the coming year at the state Capitol last week, they spoke of equal pay, child care and family leave – issues that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are campaigning on day after day.

Then, a reporter asked the room full of Democratic state lawmakers who they support for president. And it got awkward.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who chairs the caucus, began by noting that the caucus as a whole has not endorsed anyone. Then, she hinted at her own preference.

“For many of us, we see this, historically, as an opportunity to once and for all break a glass ceiling,” Jackson said.

That led Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to interrupt – and a split quickly emerged. (To get the full picture, we recommend you listen to our audio story.)

Jackson: “And so there’s I think a little generational gap here. But I think that the –”

Gonzalez: “I just – I – but – we clearly are a caucus of different ideas.”

Jackson: “I mentioned that, I mentioned that.”

Gonzalez: “Yes. And I want to be clear, because I think, some of – my daughter has maybe a different opinion than mine.”

Gonzalez went on to say that some women – particularly young women – may see poverty as their biggest obstacle.

So “they may choose that over the symbolic nature of a woman as president,“ she said.

“This is a division, frankly, that I think is playing out in a lot of offices and lunch tables and houses throughout the country,” says Loyola Law School political analyst Jessica Levinson.

“Is it a plus factor that Hillary Clinton is a woman? Is that something we take into account?“ Levinson asks. “Or do we simply take each candidate as they are, and whatever their gender is, it doesn’t matter? And it was, I think, awkward that it was playing out real-time that there was this kind of division in the caucus.”

Levinson says the generational divide between Clinton and Sanders supporters appears to exist among elected officials as well as regular voters.

 Election 2016

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio