Pointing to a decline of women in the Legislature, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins rolled out high-profile endorsements Saturday in her challenge of state Sen. Marty Block, a fellow Democrat.

About 25 local and state officeholders and former politicians stood with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (right). Photo by Chris Stone

All the backers are women, including state Attorney General Kamala Harris, former congresswoman Lynn Schenk, state Controller Betty Yee, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and three former state senators — Dede Alpert, Christine Kehoe and Lucy Killea.

Many were present at an outdoor announcement near the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation in Southeastern San Diego — in Weber’s 79th District.

The female firepower included at least one Republican — District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis — and Democratic San Diego Councilwomen Sherri Lightner and Myrtle Cole.

Mary Salas and Leesa Heebner, the mayors of Chula Vista and Solana Beach, respectively, also are backing Atkins, being termed out of the Assembly, along with former Del Mar mayors Crystal Crawford and Lee Haydu.

The local Run Women Run and the San Diego Democratic Woman’s Club were announced as endorsers, as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Toni Atkins greets endorsers at the Jacobs Center in Southeastern San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Block, who wasn’t named in Atkins’ remarks, has the backing of many women, too, including state senators Cathleen Galgiani, Loni Hancock, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Connie Leyva, Carol Liu, Holly Mitchell, Fran Pavley and Lois Wolk.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Maria Senour, president of the San Diego Community College District governing board, also are listed as endorsing Block in the 39th District race as well as the female-heavy California Federation of Teachers and American Federation of Teachers.

“Look, I don’t like having to promote myself,” Atkins told a crowd of several dozen, most of them her endorsers. “It’s hard.”

She said Sacramento has seen a decline in the representation of women in the Legislature.

“We’re at about 25 percent between the Senate and the Assembly,” Atkins said. “Seven progressive women are terming out of the Legislature this year, including me.”

Praising the women who spoke before her, she said: “Our stories are different. Our stories matter. Our stories help inform the policy that we put into place in Sacramento. And that’s why I’m so proud and honored to have the support of all of these women here today.”

After hearing chants of “Toe-Nee, Toe-Nee, Toe-Nee,” Atkins told Times of San Diego that she appreciated the female support.

“It gives me a boost in a race that’s a particular challenge,” she said.

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