KQED / May 2, 2022
Garamendi’s previous district had been divided into multiple seats, and unlike in the state Legislature, members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they represent.
“Immediately you see that juxtaposition of, like, ‘Oh, yeah, we have this diverse area, but look who’s running,'” said Kimi Lee, executive director of Bay Rising, another civic engagement group.
Lee said the development in the 8th District is a manifestation of the long-term underrepresentation of residents of color in local government, resulting from the high costs of running for office and a lack of leadership training.
A 2020 collaborative study by Bay Rising and PolicyLink, a research institute focused on advancing economic and social equity, found that while 60% of Bay Area residents are people of color, they only account for 34% of the region’s top elected officials.
Without a diverse pool of candidates in local government, “you’re not going to have a diverse pool at the congressional level,” said Lee. “Even though we have this opportunity now with a more diverse district, it will take years to actually get people in the pipeline to be able then to run.”