Primary Outlook: Women Candidates in California

May 31, 2018

Ahead of the California primary election on June 5, 2018, we outline the numbers and proportions of women who have filed as candidates for congressional and statewide office. The data below also provide points of historical comparison to give context to today’s presence and potential success of women candidates.

All data are provided from the Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. For a full list of the women candidates in CA primary races for congressional and statewide offices, see CAWP’s Election Watch page.


Current: 19 of 55 members of the California congressional delegation (34.5%)
Filed: 61 (45D, 16R)*
Percent of all Filed Congressional Candidates (D/R): 27.1% (61 of 225)


Current: 2 of 2 senators (100%)

  • 3 women have served in the U.S. Senate from California, including current Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kamala Harris (D). Senator Harris, who identifies as multiracial, is 1 of 4 women of color currently serving in the U.S. Senate.

Filed: 4 (3D, 1R)

  • Incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) is up for re-election. She will compete against 20 (9D, 11R) candidates in California’s top-two primary, including 3 (2D, 1R) women.


Current: 17 of 53 representatives (32.1%)

  • 39 (32D, 7R) women have represented California in the U.S. House, including the 17 (16D, 1R) current women representatives.
  • Of the 17 women members of the U.S. House from California, 10 (58.8%) are women of color: 3 Black women, 5 Latinas, and 2 Asian/Pacific Islander women.

Filed: 57 (42D, 15R)*

  • All 17 (16D, 1R) women incumbents are running for re-election to the U.S. House in California.
  • 6 (3D, 3R) women are running for open seats.
  • 34 (23D, 11R) women are challenging incumbents in top-two primaries for the U.S. House, including 32 (22D, 10R) women challenging incumbents of the opposing party and 2 (1D, 1R) women challenging incumbents in their own party.
  • Of the 57 women filed to run for the U.S. House in California, at least 23 (40.4%) are women of color, including 10 Latinas (9D, 1R), 5 (4D, 1R) Black women, 7 (4D, 3R) Asian/Pacific Islander women, and 1 (1R) woman who identifies as both Black and Latina.[i]

*5 (4D, 1R) women candidates filed, but later withdrew from California U.S. House primaries. Because their names will still appear on the ballot per the CA Secretary of State, they are included in these counts.

Districts with Women Candidates: 31 of 53 (58.5%)
Percent of all Filed House Candidates (D/R):  27.9% (57 of 204)
Percent of all Filed Democratic House Candidates:  36.5% (42 of 115)
Percent of all Filed Republican House Candidates: 16.9% (15 of 89)

Recent history: The number of women who filed for major party candidacy for the U.S. House in California in 2018 is greater than any other year between 2008 and 2018.

  • In 2012, when all 10 U.S. House seats were open in California, 46 (34D, 12R) women filed as primary candidates. This year, just 2 U.S. House seats in California are open but 11 more women overall are running for the House.
    • In 2012, two non-incumbent women were elected to the U.S. House from California.
  • This year marks highest number of Democratic and Republican women running for the U.S. House in California in the past decade.


Current: 0
No woman has ever served as governor of California.

Filed: 3 (2D, 1R)

  • Democrats Delaine Eastin and Amanda Renteria and Republican Yvonne Girard are competing for the open gubernatorial seat in California.
  • If successful, any of these women would be the first woman governor of California.
    • Renteria, who is Latina, and Girard, who is Black, would also be the first woman of color elected governor of California. Renteria could become the first Democratic woman of color and first Democratic Latina elected governor in the U.S. Girard could become the first Black woman governor in the U.S.

Percent of all Filed Gubernatorial Candidates (D/R):  17.6% (3 of 17)
Percent of all Filed Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates:  16.7% (2 of 12)
Percent of all Filed Republican Gubernatorial Candidates: 20% (1 of 5)

Recent history: Just 3 (2D, 1R) women have been major party nominees for governor in California’s history.


Current: 1 (1D) of 7 positions (excludes governor) (14.3%)

Filed:  5 (3D, 1R, 1NP)

  • Democratic incumbent controller Betty Yee is running for re-election.
  • All 4 (2D, 1R, 1NP) non-incumbent women candidates for statewide executive offices in California are running for open seats, including 2 (1D, 1R) women candidates for lieutenant governor, 1 (1D) candidate for state treasurer and 1 (1NP) candidate for superintendent of public instruction.
  • 4 of 5 women candidates for statewide executive office in California this year are women of color, including:
    • Incumbent Controller Betty Yee who is Asian American
    • Fiona Ma, Asian American woman candidate for state treasurer
    • Lydia Ortega, Latina candidate for lieutenant governor
    • Lily Ploski, candidate for superintendent of public instruction who identifies as Latina and White

Percent of all Filed Statewide Executive (other than governor) Candidates (D/R/NP): 17.9% (5 of 28)
Percent of all Filed Democratic Statewide Executive (other than governor) Candidates: 23.1% (3 of 13)
Percent of all Filed Republican Statewide Executive (other than governor) Candidates: 9.1% (1 of 11)
Percent of all Filed Nonpartisan Statewide Executive (other than governor) Candidates: 25% (1 of 4)

[i] No racial identification was available for 2 of 57 women House candidates from California.