Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ask a Woman to Run for Office

When I ran for the Town Board last year, I was focused on becoming the only Democrat on the board. Halfway through the election when a newspaper reporter asked me what I thought about becoming the only woman on the Board, I was momentarily stumped. Here in the Ithaca area, we're a tad further along the road to enlightenment than some others places. Women's issues were not uppermost in my mind.

Recently Irene Stein, from the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, invited me to participate in Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Campaign School. I felt like I'd been invited by Eleanor Roosevelt herself and I jumped at the chance. We met tonight for introductions.

The training, designed by people at Emily's List, is designed to encourage pro-choice, Democratic women to run for office and win. Emily's list was started in the 1980s at which time no Democratic woman had ever been elected to the US Senate in her own right. EVER! In fact, of 1,889 people who have served in the US Senate since its inception in 1789, only 33 are women. Of 10,546 members of the House of Representatives, 203 are women.

Why so few? According to a Brown University study (pdf) "women are significantly less likely than men to view themselves as qualified to run for office. In addition, women are less likely than men to receive encouragement to run for office from party leaders, elected officials, and political activists."

Does it matter? Well, more than half of eligible voters in the US are women. 15% of the 109th Congress are women. Let's find out if women can make a difference. People at Emily's List and the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee are working hard to recruit qualified women and support their campaigns. If you're a woman, think about running for office. If not, donate to Emily's list and ask a woman you know to run.

Seriously, find out who your local, state and national representatives are and when their terms expire. If you need help with this, email me. Find your local Democratic Committee. Go to a town board, city council, county or state legislature meeting and see what they do. It's hard work but its not rocket science. So, run! Or help someone run. Really. We need you. Get going!

(Cross posted at Five Wells )


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