SEATTLE - The Washington state Legislature that will gather in Olympia early next year will be the least diverse group of state lawmakers in a generation, mostly due to fewer women.
Even as the U.S. Congress is becoming more diverse, Washington's 63rd Legislature will include 44 women, or about 30 percent, among its 147 members - the fewest since 1990, The Seattle Times reported Sunday.Overall, nearly two-thirds of the Legislature, or 95 lawmakers, will be white men. That is the largest percentage since 1992.
Depending on a too-close-to-call House race in Vancouver - where Democrat Monica Stonier, who identifies as Asian and Hispanic, holds a 100-vote lead - there may be just one Latino lawmaker, the lowest number since 1996, according to the newspaper.
There will also be two blacks, two American Indians, five Asian Americans and, for the first time, an Iranian American, according to the latest vote tallies. There will be six openly gay or lesbian members.
The dearth of diversity is particularly apparent in the Republican Party, whose legislative ranks next year include no minorities and either 16 or 17 women, the
Lawmakers and advocates say there aren't more women and minorities in the Legislature for a number of reasons, including poor recruitment, low salaries, competing needs for women and the rancorous nature of politics being a turnoff.
"This doesn't happen overnight," Tim Ceis, a Democratic member of the Washington State Redistricting Commission, told The Times. He said increased minority representation eventually
"It takes organizing. It takes candidate recruitment. It takes time,"
The commission, which redrew district boundaries last year after the once-a-decade census, made increased minority representation a goal. Among other moves, the commissioners created the state's first Latino-majority district, the 15th, in the Yakima area.
But few Latinos volunteered to run for office there this year. Democrat Pablo Gonzalez, 21, a Central Washington University student, challenged incumbent David Taylor, R-Moxee, in the 15th but took just 38.9 percent of the vote.