By Hector Gonzalez
Despite political gridlock in Washington, D.C., Ventura County’s representative in Congress said she’s recently sensed a “slight shift” toward bipartisanship that could lead to progress on improving healthcare and tackling other big issues.
Although she predicted the political climate in the capital could grow more chaotic before things improve, U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Thousand Oaks) said she’s recently noted more compromise and cooperation coming from Republicans in Congress.
“I have conversations with my Republican colleagues a lot, and I’m beginning to think it’s shifting,” she said during an Aug. 11 talk to members of Women Lawyers of Ventura County at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo.
While she predicted the nation could have a “bumpy ride ahead” politically, Brownley told the nonprofit group of legal professionals she believes greater bipartisanship might emerge closer to the November 2018 congressional elections.
“Our Constitution will be challenged,” she said. “But I believe more and more, Republicans are beginning to see the president is more of a liability than an asset, and the closer we get to that next election cycle, the more you’ll begin to see people pulling away and moving toward the center.”
With Congress on its August vacation, Brownley made several appearances in her district last week, touring a couple of manufacturing plants in Camarillo, a Head Start program in Oxnard and a propane-producing facility in Ventura. Her talk to the lawyers group in Camarillo was part of that personal-appearance blitz.
In spite of “all the noise” generated in Washington, Brownley said, her daily routine hasn’t changed since she was first elected in 2012 to represent the 26th District, which includes the cities of Camarillo, Newbury Park, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Ventura, Oxnard and Ojai.
“Believe it or not, my daily routine is pretty tame,” she said. “I attend my committee meetings. I track legislation that includes appropriations so that I can get amendments into those bills that benefit local projects.”
As chairperson of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Brownley’s ongoing fight on behalf of women’s veterans includes her successful bill that launched a federal study into why women veterans commit suicide at a rate six times higher than civilian women, she said.
Brownley first got into politics when she became an advocate for her daughter, who has a learning disability. She later joined the local school board. Improving the lives of women and children continues to be her main focus in Congress, she said.
“I think I’ve come to a better understanding that the challenges our children face are the same challenges women face,” she said. “You can’t improve the lives of children, in my opinion, without improving the lives of women.”
Women are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men, and the wage gap between women and men continues to widen, she said.
Also troubling, Brownley said, is that women are still underrepresented where they could most make a difference: in government and the justice system.
“ In 2013… the numbers weren’t good, and I’m disappointed to say they haven’t improved very much and in some cases have gotten worse,” she said.
In Sacramento, the number of women lawmakers has dropped from 27 percent in 2013 to 22 percent in 2017. At the national level, the numbers have remained about the same over the past decade.
“In 2013, women represented about 20 percent of the seats in Congress. Two election cycles later, we’re still hovering at 20 percent,” Brownley said. “Women make up only 36 percent of the legal profession overall and only 26 percent of federal and state judgeships.”
She said groups like Women Lawyers of Ventura County, which has about 100 members, are helping to give local woman a stronger voice in their communities.
“The purpose of the lunch is to both recognize women who are prominent in their field and to educate our members,” said Jaclyn Smith, a Women Lawyers of Ventura County board member.
“Women in Ventura County have a very strong voice,” Brownley said. “But I think we have to continue pushing to make sure more women are at the table.”