In the wake of the November 2016 election, Valerie McGinty ’06 wanted to donate to an organization that would fund progressive women running for office in California. When she learned that none existed, she decided to start her own.
In September 2017, the attorney founded Fund Her, a political action committee that is the only group in the state exclusively dedicated to reaching gender parity in the California State Legislature by funding the election of progressive women. The organization has raised more than $225,000.00 to date, and three of the first four candidates it endorsed were elected to office. That included Wendy Carrillo, a former undocumented immigrant and community advocate that now serves as the assemblymember representing the 51st District in Los Angeles. Fund Her backed 11 candidates in the June 5th primary election, nine of whom advanced to the November ballot, a success rate of 82 percent.
“California is the state of innovators and pioneers, yet women make up only 23 percent of the legislature, and that number has gone down in the last decade,” McGinty says. “We need a legislature that looks more like California.”
Before launching Fund Her, McGinty spent four years fundraising and advocating for progressive political candidates on her own. In February 2017, she was elected as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.
“It seemed that the best opportunity to make change was here at the state level, and I learned that what I really wanted to do was focus on putting women at the helm,” McGinty says.
Organizations such as Close the Gap and Emerge existed to recruit and train women for political office, but their tax status barred them from funding candidates. Financial support was a critical missing piece, McGinty says, particularly because many women lacked access to capital through their networks and tended to receive less than men from individual donors.
McGinty’s progressive ideals date back to her time at UC Hastings, where she cofounded the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal. She credits her experience in moot court with building her advocacy skills, both in court and in the political sphere. During law school, she also completed externships with Justice J. Anthony Kline of the 1st District Court of Appeal and with Judge John Munter in San Francisco Superior Court.
McGinty, who lives in San Mateo with her husband and two daughters, now splits her time between acting as Fund Her’s president and serving as a plaintiff appellate attorney in private practice. Thanks to the work of Fund Her, she hopes women will make up half of the state legislature by 2028.
“If we’re going to continue to thrive as an economy and to drive the progressive policy of the nation, then we must continue to break glass ceilings here in California,” she says.