Toni Atkins might have the power, but after this year, Lorena Gonzalez has the profile.

Perhaps no one in Sacramento made more waves in 2014 than Gonzalez, who aggressively pushed bills aimed at boosting workers and women.

She’s carried “more controversial measures in a relatively short tenure than some lawmakers attempt in their entire careers,” as the U-T put it earlier this year.

Her success seemed to surprise even Gonzalez herself. When her bill to create a diaper assistance program drew national attention, she told the Sacramento Bee, “To be quite frank, I am delighted but a little surprised that we’ve gotten it this far.”

She speaks out about issues on her agenda forcefully and often – but one of the most fascinating things about Gonzalez’s rise this year was the way in which she harnessed unconventional means to make a point.

The most powerful statement she made about working moms’ struggles to afford diapers came from a tweet reciting Eminem lyrics. And when her diaper bill provoked a barrage of vile, sexist responses, she made those rants part of the story – turning her strongest critics’ own voices against them.

You’ll see Gonzalez described in lots of stories as “outspoken” or “unafraid to speak her mind” – and she certainly is. But the fact that journalists still feel like these are notable qualities for a Stanford-educated, high-profile lawmaker just goes to show how relevant her mission to put women on equal footing in the workplace and in policy discussions really is.

Her latest mission is a bill that would give some relief to workers who are forced to work major holidays like Christmas, ensuring that she’ll ride out the year the same way she’s spent the last 12 months – in the headlines.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year. Check out the previous story, Todd Gloria: The Voice for a Progressive San Diego, and the next, Ed Harris and Marco Gonzalez: The Voices of the Density Debate.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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