Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the nomination of Patricia Guerrero to be chief justice of the California Supreme Court. Guerrero, who grew up in Imperial Valley and whose parents were immigrants from Mexico, could be the court’s first Latina chief justice. The Commission on Judicial Appointments must confirm her nomination and voters must approve it in November.

While Latinos make up the largest ethnic group among California’s nearly 40 million residents, no Latina has served in a statewide constitutional office. 

The California Latino Legislative Caucus, HOPEUCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute (UCLA LPPI ), and California State Senator, Monique Limón, believe the state’s political appointments must deeply reflect the state’s population. They fear the underrepresentation of Latinos in executive branch appointments can have severe repercussions for the future of the state’s civic engagement, public trust and equitable policy development. 

On Sept. 7, UCLA LPPI, the California Latino Legislative Caucus, HOPE and Sen. Limón hosted a community hearing to highlight and present the key findings of the 2022 UCLA LPPI report titled: “From Disparity to Parity: Latino representation in appointed positions within California’s gubernatorial cabinet and state boards and commissions.” 

UCLA LPPI is an organization that aims to address the most critical domestic policy challenges facing Latinos through research, advocacy, mobilization, and leadership development, as stated on their website

The institute’s report, published on August, analyzes Latino representation across California’s executive branch, including 482 appointments to the governor’s cabinet leadership and influential state boards and commissions. The report’s introduction states that “while the report focuses on Latino representation, this analysis aims to ensure that California’s government is both representative and reflective of the broad racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, age and geographic diversity that continues to drive the state’s population growth, political power, and economic dynamism.”

Sonja Diaz, Founding Executive Director of UCLA LPPI, said that Latinos have always been integral to the country’s history and will be the lead writers in the next chapter of United States history.

“By 2050, Latinos are projected to account for more than one-quarter of the U.S. population. Due to their youthfulness and numbers, Latinos will drive the future of work, and as such, they will continue to redefine this nation,” Diaz said. “Yet, we can only deliver on the promise of a prosperous nation for all if America invests in Latinos now and taps into the significant opportunity that exists across growing and youthful communities of color.“

The governor’s leadership cabinet, which serves as an advisory council to the governor, is made up of 25 secretaries and undersecretaries; they head California’s 11 major departments and agencies. 

The boards and commissions consist of 457 appointed seats, in charge of drafting regulations, reviewing appeals, supervising policy implementation, and allocating resources. As stated in the report, the topics covered by commissions and boards range from professional licensing and environmental protection to public safety and educational standards. 

Based on the analysis of the 482 executive branch appointees in California, the community briefing presented four key findings of the UCLA LPPI report. The first finding that was presented was that Latino possesses the largest representation gap of any racial/ethnic group with respect to the gubernatorial cabinet and state board and commission appointments.

According to the report, there are currently 445 executive appointments (seated) in the governor’s cabinet and executive boards and commissions, with 37 vacancies. Despite the fact that Latinos make up 39.1% of the state population, Latinos make up only 18.4% of executive appointees. In comparison, non-Hispanic whites make up 36.5% of the state population but also 48.8% of all executive appointments. “As 39% of the population, Latinos should make up at least 174 out of the 445 current appointments that we looked at,” said Gabby Carmona, UCLA LPPI’s political analyst, “which means 92 more Latinos should be added to the governor’s cabinet and executive boards and commissions.” 

According to the report, Latinas make up 19.4% of the state’s population but are only 8.5% of all executive appointments, which equals a representation gap of 10.9 percentage points. “The [Latina] representation is smallest in the governor’s cabinet,” Carmona said, “which is where female representation is the largest, at 60% but those seats are mostly driven by the overrepresentation of non-Hispanic white women, who make up 18.3% of the state’s population, but 28% of the governor’s cabinet.” 

The third finding discussed the way underrepresentation of Latino appointments on executive boards and commissions correlates to an underrepresentation of Central and Southern California and the voices that make up these regions. The report divides California into seven major areas: Northern CA, Sacramento, Bay Area, Central California, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and the Southern Border. Central and Southern California encompasses more than 71% of the state’s residents and more than 83% of the state’s Latino community, yet less than 50% of the boards of commissioners are currently residing and representing these diverse regions. The lowest representations come from the Inland Empire with 5.4% and the highest percentage from Sacramento (22.3%) and the Bay Area (28.5%). 

The last key finding presented during the community hearing showed that Latino representational gaps also lead to the absence of Latino voices at key regulatory and agenda-setting tables. 

For example, Latinos are best represented in educational appointments, making up 27.7% of appointees; however, five of the 32 educational appointees are student members, and oftentimes tend not to vote at least for their first year; in addition, they have shorter terms. By contrast, the lowest representation of Latinos is in criminal justice appointments. Among these appointees, only 10.3% are Latinos; three of the 29 seats. “This is troubling given the existent disparities of how Latinos are impacted by the criminal justice system and whether their stories or voices are considered when talking about criminal justice reform work,” Carmona said. 

According to UCLA LPPI’s Director of Mobilization, Paul Barragan-Monge, the institution’s front-line recommendation to combat the underrepresentation of Latinos is California Senate Bill 1387, which would direct the governor’s office to build internal capacity to track and report the demographic makeup of gubernatorial appointments. 

The bill, which was initially vetoed last year, would require the Office of the Governor to create and publish a website containing a list of every state board and commission, their membership list, the stated purpose, duties, meeting frequency, an internet website with every state board and commission and vacancies in the membership of each state board and commission. Monge said that if passed, “this law would formalize an internal process within the governor’s office to track and report the demographic makeup of the state appointments.”

 “This report has shown us in the process of constructing and collecting the data that this type of demographic data tracking is incredibly labor intensive,” he said, “which makes a really strong case for the necessity of having an internal mechanism for tracking within the governor’s office.”

Sen. Limón, who is also the sponsor and author of SB-1387, attended the community hearing and expressed that the passage of SB-1387 and the UCLA LPPI report are both meaningful to her from a personal and professional level. She is the first woman and first Latina to be elected to the 19th Senate District.

“We know that decades of research has demonstrated that when leaders of governing institutions look like the communities they serve, it ultimately improves trust among residents and the belief that these institutions are fair,” Limon said. “So diverse representation is critical to maintaining the credibility and integrity of our governing institutions.”

Regarding SB-1387 she said: “It’s on the governor’s desk but it needs all the help it can get because it got vetoed last year.” 
To read and download the full report you can click HERE. In addition, if you are interested in sending an email to Governor Newsom encouraging him to sign SB-1387, you can do so HERE.

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...