Emerge Oregon: eliminating the gender gap in oregon politics

By Cyreena Boston of Portland, Oregon. Cyreena is a public policy and political consultant. In 2008, she ran for the Oregon Legislature and worked as the deputy political director for the Barack Obama Campaign for Change in Oregon. She is a board member for Emerge Oregon.

Every once in a while, you might look at someone and think, I wish she would run for office! What’s stopping her? Or, maybe you silently say, I’d like to run for city council or state rep, but I don’t know how. For women who have wondered, "How do I do it?" or "Can she do it?" Emerge Oregon is here to say "Yes, we can."

Emerge is a training program for Democratic women looking to run for elected office. It's a program that says we can't be satisfied with the legacy left by Betty Roberts, Barbara Roberts, Vera Katz and Margaret Carter. Emerge Oregon is building a diverse organization to identify, educate, and inspire more women to join the ranks of Kitty Piercy, Mary Nolan, Tina Kotek, Judy Stiegler, and Desiree Strader.

Emerge America was founded in 2002. This premiere campaign training organization for Democratic women has built a phenomenal track record in three election cycles. Since then it has trained over hundreds of Democratic women to run for office. Emerge was able to accomplish Democratic wins by women in states like Arizona, and has affiliates in eight other states. In Election ‘08 82 of Emerge alumnae ran for office and half won seats across the nation.

“Emerge,” according to Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, “proves to us what we already knew: that talented women will step up to run if they are given the training and political networks offered by Emerge.”

Emerge's extraordinary training program hones the organizing skills already possessed by many women who balance public service, family life, and bringing home the bacon. Over seven months, a weekend a month, Emerge's intensive and competitive program features a slate of top Democratic trainers for the essential areas of campaigning: viability, fundraising, public speaking, political strategy, voter contact, GOTV, endorsements, and ethics.

Comprised of Oregon women from all walks of life, it immerses them in an ongoing collective learning process, leading to support by a national network of Emerge alumnae. Already, two Emerge California alumnae live and work here in Oregon.

To that end, as Emerge Oregon sets up shop, we are asking for your help.

We are looking for dynamic women who truly want to serve in government. Being good Democrats, you’re in your communities every day and can identify women who are progressive problem solvers. So start thinking of who they are!

What about that volunteer who kicked butt in Election ’08, or your neighbor who writes a letter to the editor every day? They should RUN! Or, your sister who asks you for money each year to support the local program she volunteers for. She should run! Or, maybe it is you.

If you know a Democratic woman who you think should run or mentions wanting to run for office, please let her know about Emerge Oregon. We want them to run! Emerge has a rigorous and highly selective screening process to find the best future candidates, and we are starting the process for applicants right now. Democratic women from all over Oregon, from communities of color, the GLBT community, and of all ages are strongly encouraged to apply.

For more information or details on Emerge Oregon’s training program, you can email [email protected]. Prospective applicants can also inquire for additional information.

In the words of Shirley Chisholm, “At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.” After our success in Election ’08, Oregon Democrats stand to progress even further with more women serving us in government.

See you in 2010!

  • Sue Castner (unverified)

    BTW – for those who may be interested, Emerge Oregon is currently accepting resumes for an Executive Director. If you want to start working to get more women elected to public office from Ashland to Astoria, from Portland to Pendleton, check the detailed job description to see if you've got what it takes. Remember - 2010 will be here before you know it!

  • Dana (unverified)

    What a wonderful piece! You said it so well! I am one of the first board members for Emerge in California and then one of the founders for Emerge Arizona. I have a google alert set which is what brought me to your blog. I just wanted to wish you all in Oregon best of luck! This is the most important work I do and the women who come forward to apply to the program are amazing women. They are union members, teachers, social workers, government employees, small business owners, moms, grandma's and women who want to make a differnce and run for office. They run for city council, school boards, health care boards, state leg., state senate, democratic party offices just to name some of the office Emerge Arizona graduates have run for.
    The other area that we are very successful with is women supporting women. The women build a cohesive network much like the good old boys network.
    That is my plug for this great organization so take that next step forward and apply! Dana

  • Logan Gilles (unverified)

    Hear, hear, and three cheers!

  • David McDonald (unverified)

    Let's get real. Tina Kotek can't even answer questions about a developmentally disabled woman who died in Portland. How can she be trusted to lead anything??

  • (Show?)

    Before the last election, Oregon was experiencing a pretty serious dearth of women in leadership positions. 2008 was a slightly better year, but we have a lot of work to do. I applaud the effort to cultivate women for leadership roles--and thanks for the great post!

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Put a 10 year moratorium on male candidates. That was easy. Or is this a trick question?

    Seriously, you didn't say candidates with xyz credentials, of which women are a good example. If you want women for their own sake, that's the direct way to accomplish it.

    Sorry, I forgot. The direct way without dressing up all kinds of side motives is the one way that can never be considered.

  • Anthony Stine (unverified)

    All silliness aside of the kind Zarathustra is suggesting, promoting women to leadership and political office is a worthy cause for Democrats. The majority of women are Democrats, vote for Democrats and are aligned with out partisan causes. Put better, though, the causes of the Democratic Party in this day and age are reflected in the political priorities of women.

    Getting women into elected office is a matter of justice. More than half of the population are women, yet they make up a very small percentage of candidates and officeholders. It is quite staggering how little consideration women get from the traditional party structure. The sad thing is, when women run, women tend to win, simply because men have a hard time running effective campaigns against women without looking like jerks. There are other reasons of course. However, as a matter of justice, promoting the cause of women's future electoral success is a must not only for Democrats but to anybody with any sense of right and wrong.

  • LT (unverified)

    Posted by: David McDonald | Dec 19, 2008 12:32:27 AM

    David, did you find a male politician to answer your question? Or is that just an attack on Tina?

    I oppose "support her because she is a woman". That was tried against Peter DeFazio the first time he ran for Congress. People who knew Peter DeFazio and Margie Hendricksen (Dem. legislator who ran against him ) made their own decisions. They had every right to do that regardless of peer pressure from women outside the 4th District.

    I have voted for better qualified male candidates (men running against Vicki Berger, for instance) and when the candidates were in many ways equally qualified, decided based on issues of the campaign (as when Bev Clarno ran statewide and it came down to one particular issue).

  • rw (unverified)

    Anthony, I'm with you in some ways. I posted from different purviews on the topic of competing needs and imperatives of the disenfranchised. At the time it was related to the bitter disappointment of women and the intentional=seeming refusal to understand that perhaps many women had the power of possibility running in their veins so strongly they simply could NOT "SIT BACK DOWN AND WAIT YOUR TURN AGAIN". .... I spoke of the inherent divisions that must be overcome again and again by those who typically make up the D.party or other non-R parties, as eventually only one token of any group gets picked. And picked they are - for there is a choice point at which the party machine decides who gets a turn. It is at such junctures that politics becomes a spiritual endeavour - one MUST balance one's intelligent lack of trust in demagogues by one's commitment to overcoming fear, anger, longing, need, righteousness. And turn to the higher purpose, the one beyond gender, race.

    So it would be greatly intelligent for the D party to remember that the Rs are already prepping, and to remember also that many hearts were broken, many were told to sit back down, and NOW is the time to keep promises. TO include. To empower, to push it open as much as possible before the next pissing match, er, Presidential Election is upon us.

    If the Ds do not make good on their rhetoric and actively encourage and bring along candidates from the traditionally disenfranchised salient groups, they'll have themselves to thank when the backlash inevitably comes. You can promise only so long before you must produce. It's not rocket science, but it's not sexy either.

  • Hallie (unverified)

    This organization has a charter and group of proven leaders that can actually accomplish positive gains for women here in Oregon and the Country in general.

    I am sick of groups purporting to bring change - YET - nothing has really changed significantly for the better in 20 years. Yes, we have a terrific Secretary of State-elect in Kate Brown, and yes, we have Betty Roberts and and Barbara Roberts. Up here on the North Coast we have Besty Johnson, one of the most effective Senators in the legislature in my opinion. But we NEED an organization such as EMERGE to teach women - teachers, homemakers, doctors, farmers - everyone - how to run for office, how to turn those organizational skills they use in their lives into political skills. Women must be included in each part of the system. Men have had this skill set built into their DNA since the founding of this country. We have some serious catching up to do and this group is the agent to bring about the change. Clearly the party isn't doing it very effectively or maybe something is wrong with their strategy. Who knows?

    It's not about men not being able to run for office - more, it is about leveling the playing field and making it a normal, everyday occurrence for women of all ages to seek out public service, both governmental and NGO's. We need them badly, there can be no disputing that much.

  • (Show?)

    This topic is old, so I'll probably never get an answer to this, but how is Emerge different from Emily's list?

    Again, progressives never seem to want to work together to create large organizations that have the advantage of economies of scale. Instead, we always seem to create dozens of these tiny little outfits all trying to address the same need, all in competition for the same limited donor base, and none of them ever big enough to really do anything.

    I hope Emerge is filling a unique need that Emily's list is not, or else I really don't see a need for it.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Good point, Steve. I think it discriminates among types of progressives as well.

    Men have had this skill set built into their DNA since the founding of this country.

    As well as general aggressiveness. I've always taken seriously Ghandi's belief that any group that seeks to implement full equality of the sexes in its governance, must, of necessity, be non-violent. This was a central motive for non-violence within the Congress Party. He wasn't arguing whether violence was justified or not. He was simply observing that if it becomes part of the agenda, that men will take over positions of responsibility, just because that always happens when using violence. I think this raises deeper issues for the thread topic. Or you can treat it as literally stated, in which case my earlier suggestion is not silly at all!

  • anon (unverified)

    Who is on the Board of Directors of this organization?

  • Sue Castner (unverified)

    The difference between Emerge Oregon and Emily’s List? Briefly – EMILY’S List is a 527/PAC. They give money, endorsements, and in-kind political support to Pro-Choice Democratic women running for FEDERAL office.

    Emerge Oregon is a 501 (c) (4). We train Democratic women to run for office here in Oregon, typically at the local and state level. We do not endorse candidates. We do not give money. Ours is a comprehensive, intensive, 7-month program that recruits and trains Democratic women to run and win.

    EMILY’s List does do brief weekend trainings in different regions across the country that largely focus on fundraising. And when it comes to this sort of fundraising, Ellen Malcolm wrote the book. In fact, EMILY’S List partners WITH us to provide that fundraising training module for our participants for all of the Emerge affiliate states.

    There is no doubt that EMILY’S List has significantly changed the political landscape with their support of federal candidates. But women usually don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m running for Congress today.” Emerge Oregon will develop a bull pen (and I detest sports analogies) of qualified, trained, inspired potential candidates for offices across the state.

    Emerge Oregon DOES fill a unique need - letting women know we CAN get there from here. We train. We educate. We inspire. We support. And just like any other skill set, once you have that knowledge, you can go anywhere. You can run for DNC Committeewoman or Governor but ya gotta start somewhere.

  • LT (unverified)

    "ya gotta start somewhere."

    Yes, and our first (and so far only) woman Governor Barbara Roberts has said often that the best legislators were those who had been elected to local office first.

guest column

connect with blueoregon