The Kamala Harris Advantage

Mike Madrid
Partner at GrassrootsLab, and a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends. In 2001, named one of America's "Most Influential Hispanics" by Hispanic Business Magazine.

Kamala Harris enters the US Senate race with two considerable advantages. First, she’s a woman. That might not fit into the conventional narrative but for a Democrat, being a woman brings with it a 10 point structural advantage. According to Political Data, 55% of registered Democrats are women. That’s an enormous advantage in a party where there’s plenty of evidence to suggest women are more likely to vote for women. Not only are our two current US Senators female, but 52% of all Democrat mayors and council members statewide are female. Not withstanding falling numbers of women in the state legislature, being a Democrat woman is a big advantage. Moreover, Harris is likely to be the only Democrat woman running on a primary ballot in California with Hillary Clinton.

Second, Kamala Harris has a big geographic advantage. There’s a reason why 8 of our 10 statewide elected candidates are from the 9 county Bay Area around San Francisco. Voters in the Bay Area actually vote. Consider that in our last election cycle LA county had a 24.9% turnout compared to 36.4 % for the Bay Area. LA may have more people, but the Bay Area has more people that tend to vote. There are a lot of reasons for this disparity in turnout, not the least of which is a growing poverty gap – Los Angeles county has a big and growing number of people living in poverty while the San Francisco Bay Area leads the state in wealth and economic growth – but for the purposes of today’s political calculus being from the Bay Area is another huge advantage for Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris AdvantageWhile other factors will undoubtedly play a role in this race – being the top cop in California, the impact of potential self funders like billionaire environmentalist crusader Tom Steyer, the wild card Latino vote and Antonio Villaraigosa are examples – Harris enjoys two extremely significant structural advantages; she’s a liberal woman from the Bay Area and that matters.

Just ask Barbara Boxer.

Mike Madrid is a partner at GrassrootsLab, a political research data and consulting firm.

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