By Kathy Groob, Publisher
In Washington, D.C. this week during the annual Emerge America conference, President Karen Middleton convened a panel of top women advocates and organizations centered on the theme of building new relationships among the various pro-electing women’s national organizations. “There is a role to play where we all interlock; where we can explore more and build a coalition,” said Karen Middleton.
Emerge America hosted five organizations on a panel to discuss strategies for electing more women. America Votes, Progressive Majority, EMILY’s List, Women’s Campaign Forum and The White House Project.
Emerge America offers intensive training programs for Democratic women, currently working in nine states across the country. Joining the discussion, were Julie Daniels and Erin Cutraro of the Women’s Campaign Forum. (WCF). WCF is a non-partisan foundation and advocacy center to break down barriers to women running for office.
WCF developed the pipeline program titled She Should Run, in order to open doors for more women to enter the political arena. “Women win at equal rates to men when they do run, but in general are less likely than men to run for office,” said Julie Daniels, WCF Political Programs Director. Currently the United States ranks 72nd for women in public office around the globe. She Should Run is a membership program that actively encourages women to make the decision to run and provides resources such as a monthly training newsletter to its members as well as connections to other resources and organizations that can help.
“One of the surprises we have had with the She Should Run program are the number of women who self identified as a future candidate,” said WCF Vice President Erin Cutraro. For women who are closer to declaring candidacy, WCF looks for women who are both supportive of reproductive rights and choice issues as well as demonstrated leadership capabilities. The WCF Political Action Committee endorses and supports emerging candidates as early in the process as possible.
Erin Vilardi, Vice President of Program and Communications with The White House Project described the synergies between the organizations at the national level and with involvement in the states. TWHP has promoted their award-winning program Vote, Run, Lead and promoted TWHP founder Marie Wilson’s book titled “Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World”. Vote, Run, Lead provides weekend political leadership trainings in a variety of states in order to open the doors to candidacy for more women. The White House project has trained over 11,000 women. “There are five or six organizations here today, but that is just a drop in the bucket,” said Vilardi. “We will get there by all working together.”
The White House Project will enter Texas for the first time this year to identify and begin training women for political leadership.
Kate Coyne McCoy of EMILY’s List spoke about their organization’s political opportunity program. EMILY’s List focuses on electing pro-choice women to federal offices but has become involved in state and local races selectively. EL has built a daylong training program to position women to get ready to run for office and has a stellar fundraising program that is highlighted in the state training programs. “We have trained over 6,000 women and have made direct contributions to over 900 women,” said McCoy. After EMILY’s List identifies top-notch candidates, they provide them training and support for their staff.
Progressive Majority President, Gloria Totten, described their organization’s mission, which is to support progressive candidates, but not particularly women. The organization began as a federal PAC and was transformed into a “Farm Team” system. Totten helped lead the group’s mission from a PAC to a recruitment and candidate support organization. Progressive Majority works in 14 states at all levels local and statewide. “We have shown that we can elect large numbers of progressive candidates and focus on diversity, including women,” said Totten. “We are showing that we can help women not only run for office, but to win.”
Progressive Majority has roughly 500 candidates in their farm team at any one time. They help recruit the candidates and then support them throughout the cycle of their election. They serve the candidates as advocates, calling other organizations for financial and campaign support. “We are not running races, but we are getting candidates ready to run,” added Gloria Totten.
America Votes brought the voter organization and grassroots component to the discussion. America Votes works across the country with over 300 state and national partner organizations to advance progressive policies, expand access to the ballot, coordinate issue advocacy and election campaigns, and protect every American’s right to vote. President Joan Fitz-Gerald described their work during the 2008 elections as “collaboration with our partner organizations.” America Votes and partners had direct contact with 62.5 million voters, knocked on doors 13.7 million times and registered one million voters.