Word on the Street: Emerging women in government?

Karol Collymore

Lately I've been hearing rumors that Alicia Elisa Dozono is starting a non-profit called Emerging Oregon that will recruit women to run for office in Oregon. This concept made my ears perk up a bit. In 2009, our entire congressional delegation will be men. Statewide, 46 of 60 state representatives and 22 out of 30 state senators are men.* I think local jurisdictions do a little bit better with gender equity but even in Portland, it took a few years to get a woman back on City Council.

I'm interested to see who emerges as future candidates to watch in Oregon. Ideas?

*My numbers statewide are open to be corrected. I took the information from the State Legislature site.

Updated: Emerging Oregon is hiring for an executive director. If you are interested, email me directly.

  • In My Opinion... (unverified)

    I think both State Representative Sara Gelser and State Senator Suzanne Bonamici would make great members of Congress. Is Gelser in CD 4 or 5? Bonamici is in CD 1, right?

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    I could be a bit biased, being one of the folks who's worked hard on these pages, but I'd like to point out Wikipedia is a pretty darn good resource for this sort of question:

    Current and incoming state legislators

    Congressional districts

    I suppose we don't have a good collection of current statewide office holders like Secretary of State, Treasurer etc. Time to get back to work.....

    As for the substance of your post, it sounds like great news! Thanks for posting it.

  • Tony (unverified)

    Gelser would be great. She's young, energetic, and smart. And in all likelihood, DeFazio is out in a term or two (she is in 4). You have to wonder whether she would take the opportunity, given four small children at home. I realize that that question conjures up some gender inequity questions, but recognize that it is a question I ask myself (with political aspirations, and two kids at home), as well as other potential HD 4 candidates, such as Chris Edwards. Families have an affect on every candidate’s choice to run. It is not a question of whether or not she as a MOTHER would decide to run, but a question of whether or not she as a PARENT would run. I wouldn't, but that doesn't make me think she would be wrong for doing so either; just food for thought. Another issue is whether she could overcome other potential female opponents like Vicki Edwards (likely possible candidate) or Kitty Piercy (???), given the Eugene/Springfield dominance in the district. All that said, I would be one of the first to organize in this end of the valley should she ever announce.

  • Brienne (unverified)

    I recently received a job announcement for an executive director position with Emerging Oregon, so yes indeed, the rumors are true.

    However, Emerging Oregon is not the first organization created to get women into politics. NEW Leadership Oregon is going into its fifth (I think) year of mentoring women leaders.

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    I think its a great idea also. It's sad that we need to develop new organizations to get women and people of color into elected office.
    I thought that was the political parties responsibilities!

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    Unfortunately, women didn't fare to well this year against men. I was so disappointed the night of the primary election to see so many women I'd supported for offices not win. Having an inequity in women serving in elected positions isn't so much about gender as it is that women can bring a lot of perspectives and such to the table that are important to be heard.

    As to organizations that help/encourage women to run, there is also She Should Run, a project of the Women's Campaign Forum, which has been working to mentor women and encourage them to run for office. I received a really nice kit some time back from them.

    I think a lot of women are discouraged from running because people treat them differently if they are a parent than men are treated. I certainly found that the expectations from many people were higher for me as a 30 year-old woman than they were for my opponent, a 60 year-old man. I doubt I'd have been asked by people about balancing raising a child and being a city council member had I been a man.

    As to who to watch, I have to say that Sara Gelser is a favorite, for sure. I'm also a supporter of Deborah Barnes, who is running for the Mayor of Milwaukie. Cyreena Boston is another - I hope she runs for office again.

  • BestyH (unverified)

    14 women - 46 men in the House for 2009. Only 3 of the 24 members of the Republican caucus are women, while 11 of the 36 Ds are women.

    11 or 12 women, 18 or 19 men in the Senate ... depends on who is appointed to Schrader's seat. But 2 of 12 Republicans are women, 9 or 10 of 18 Democrats (i.e. women already reached parity).

    If we're focusing on where there's the most room for improvement, it's in the Republican caucus. But there's plenty of room for improvement to go around, especially for racial minorities.

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    I'm totally in support of it and, in keeping with what Tony talked about, I hope that mothers (and all parents) will consider the option. It's the system that needs to change to allow for parents, men and women, to join the process, rather than it becoming the domain of those who don't have kids.

    I'd also be quite happy if Karol Collymore would consider becoming among the organization's first class of new leaders.

  • Amy J. Ruiz (unverified)

    Former Rep. Gail Shibley put together a list of Oregon statistics for a women in politics forum this past fall. I asked if she could email me a copy, and she handed me hers, instead. I keep it in my wallet (I knew it would come in handy someday). Here are the highlights:

    Oregon has only had four female Statewide Elective Executives - Susan Castillo, Norma Paulus, Barbara Roberts and Mary Wendy Roberts. We've sent five women to Congress.

    In 2008, our state legislature was 32.2 percent female—29 out of 90. This placed Oregon 8th among states. Our record? 33.3 percent in 01-02, when we had 30 women in Salem.

    We've had one female governor out of 43, and one female Senator out of 41. There have been four women on the Oregon Supreme Court, zero female attorneys general or treasurers. US House Districts 2 and 4 have always been represented by men.

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    It's actually Emerge, and is part of a nation-wide effort. And yes, long overdue.

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    Ok, so I messed up the link. Here is the national site:

    <href=http: www.emergeamerica.org=""/>Emerge America

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    Hmmm...Ok, the old-fashioned way. Copy/Paste still comes in handy.:)


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    However, Emerging Oregon is not the first organization created to get women into politics. NEW Leadership Oregon is going into its fifth (I think) year of mentoring women leaders.

    The key difference is that the goal of Emerge Oregon is specifically to put Democratic women into office, at all levels. NEW Leadership (a nonpartisan org) works to bring women into leadership in a multitude of ways, whether political, business, non-profit, etc. Emerge Oregon will be the place to go after NEW Leadership, when those Democratic women who want to run for office, are ready to make that decision. I very much look forward to the both of them continuing to grow.

  • Justsayin' (unverified)

    Karen Minnis; Linda Flores; Kim Thatcher; Donna Nelson; Eileen Qutub......

    Biology minus desirable education/ideology doesn't cut it.

  • LT (unverified)

    Justsayin listed dregs, let me list some of the cream of the crop.

    Mary Alice Ford http://blog.oregonlive.com/mapesonpolitics/2008/12/rip_mary_alice_ford_former_ore.html#more

    Darlene Hooley, Norma Paulus, Nancy Ryles, Barbara Roberts, Betty Roberts, Kate Brown, and many other wonderful women were state legislators.

    Karol, does this organization have a website?

    "Updated: Emerging Oregon is hiring for an executive director. If you are interested, email me directly."

    How does one email you directly?

    Are they looking for a Portland resident, or someone who lives elsewhere? Are they looking for someone able to travel throughout the state? Or someone who can work from their home? Where is their office? Is there a written job description, or aren't they that far along yet?

  • Karol Collymore (unverified)

    Kristin, thank you for the shout out. I don't think I'm made for elected office - seeing how I tend to run at the mouth and have secret aspirations to be a drag queen.

  • More Women (unverified)

    I hope this new group succeeds where WINPAC has fallen short.

    I hope this new group doesn't waste so much money in Democratic primary elections (where both candidates are strong progressives) and instead spends all their money and energy supporting women to defeat Republican ideologues in the general election.

    If WINPAC had done that this year, we might have Reps-elect Michelle Eberle, Jessica Adamson, and Lynn Howe rather than Reps. Scott Bruun, Matt Wingard, and Sal Esquival.

  • Karol Collymore (unverified)

    Job description, as requested:

    Job Title: Executive Director of Emerge Oregon


    Emerge Oregon is a training program for Democratic women who want to run for public office. Our mission is to identify, educate and inspire Democratic women to pursue elective office at the local, state and national levels. Emerge originated in the San Francisco Bay Area (www.emergeca.org) six years ago and currently has state-based programs in seven other states.


    We are seeking a highly motivated, talented, and dynamic individual to serve as the Executive Director. This position will report to the Board of Directors of Emerge Oregon. The Executive Director will build and maintain the organization’s infrastructure, implement the Emerge curriculum with the assistance from the national umbrella organization Emerge America, and support program members throughout their Emerge experience and beyond.


    The Executive Director runs the Emerge Oregon program and is responsible for building and maintaining the organizational infrastructure. Responsibilities include:

    Program • Manage program member outreach, recruitment, and selection process with the Board of Directors; • Identify, secure, and train Emerge curriculum trainers; • Organize weekend training sessions of the Emerge program, including scheduling speakers, organizing curriculum materials and food and beverages for each session.

    Fundraising and financial management • Meet fundraising goals set by Board of Directors; • Maintain financial management system and accounting records for the organization.

    Partnerships and relationships • Represent the organization and expand Emerge’s networks of diverse constituents; • Develop relationships with elected officials, political activists, non-profit organizations, political communities, and press; • Work with the Emerge national umbrella organization, Emerge America, and other Emerge affiliates across the country by participating in national conventions and calls, and sharing best practices and other technical assistance as needed;

    • Manage relationships with Emerge program members, alumnae, Advisory Board, and Board of Directors; • Maintain the Emerge Oregon database of alumnae, donors, and other parties as well as the Emerge Oregon web site. • Other duties as assigned by the Board of Directors in its sole discretion.


    • Self-starter; • Demonstrated commitment to Democratic ideals; • Passion for the issue of advancing women in politics; • Knowledge of women’s political leadership issues and politics; • Ability to develop effective working relationships with diverse and multi-cultural constituencies, including boards of directors, staff, donors, volunteers and an array of supporters and stakeholders; • Excellent organizational skills; • Excellent written and oral communications; • Effective multi-tasking abilities and efficiency in time management. Ability to meet deadlines under pressure; • Comfort with public speaking; • Minimum of 5 years relevant professional work experience preferred; • Non-profit management experience across the following areas preferred: board development, financial management, press, and program development; • Minimum of 3 years relevant fundraising experience preferred.


    • Oregon based, statewide travel required; • Valid license and vehicle required; • Some evening and monthly weekend hours for events and trainings; • Flexible hours and work location; • Start date will be mid-February 2009.


    • Commensurate with experience, plus benefit stipend


    Please send a resume and cover letter to [email protected] by January 9, 2009. Interviews will take place on or around the last week in January and/or the first week in February 2009. Please note that Emerge may not be able to respond to all applicants and will only respond if we are able to offer an interview. No calls, please.

    Emerge Oregon is an equal opportunity employer.

  • Marty Davis (unverified)

    I met with them last month when they were in Portland. They've got definite plans for Oregon. It should be exciting to both watch and participate in.

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    Thanks Jenni for the support. I remember meeting so many exciting women at an Emily's List meeting. I hope this group takes off and does well.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Sounds great. We have to put up with too much PMS politics, imo (Puttin' up with Men's Sh*t).

    As to women that are parents getting different treatment than men, having corporate family leave practices that don't discriminate between sexes is essential. In corps where men have to show 15 years of un-interrupted dedication to advance, but women can leave and re-enter the corporate scene without formal consequence, it isn't equal, so they don't get treated equal. That must be a practice going the way of the dodo and I think the differing perception will go with it which will carry over into non-corp areas of life. The other factor making the situation unequal was that men were more likely- less biased all the time- to knock off right at 5, rather than put in freebie overtime for the corp. With all the back-wage torts setting legal precedents recently, that is a practice that definitely is on the way out. Those two changes will be the final equalizer between the sexes, in the workforce, I sincerely believe.

  • zull (unverified)

    It's a great idea to encourage women to get into politics...but the biggest problem is that too often, women don't run for elected office until they're 40 or 50 years old and have already had families. There seems like there are a lot of entry barriers early on where women with PolySci degrees, those that spent time as interns, or have been similarly involved with politics can't seem to get access to run the same way a thirty year old man can. Maybe there needs to be more motivation. You look at the difference in political experience between someone like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi...Biden isn't much older, but has nearly twice as much experience in Congress as Pelosi. I can't recall even voting for a woman under thirty in Local elections, let alone State or National elections. That's the type of thing that has to change if you really want to drive a wedge into male-dominated politics.

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    zull -

    Yea, it's definitely hard to be a young woman and run for office - especially if you run against someone who is considerably older.

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    That's why both of the Oregon programs mentioned in this thread are really important. NLO specifically recruits from the university level, and helps to pair the women up with other (and likely older)women who are successful in their fields, and can act as mentors. A program like Emerge can then make it even more likely that those college-age/younger women have the support they need to run for office, and get into that all-important pike earlier, thus having the experience and support they will need to run for higher offices.

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    I just hope that these programs look elsewhere besides college. There are a lot of us in our 20s and 30s who have the experience and community connection to be good candidates, but we're not in college.

    Too many times projects focus only on college. There have been a few times where there have been programs I've wanted to participate in, but was told I was ineligible because I wasn't in college.

    While it's great to work with those in college so they can be mentored as to how to go about everything (particularly about building the community connection and gaining needed experience), we have to make sure we also work with those who are ready to run and lead now as well.

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    I agree. That is a conversation that has been ongoing, and hopefully movement in that direction. When I say university, I think more of age and life experience (at least traditionally), which is where the conversation started. Whether in college or not, we need to engage women at younger ages, so that they gain that experience to move into higher levels as they go. That does not preclude the need for reaching out to women not of so-called "college age".As someone who went through NLO at the age of 41, I can attest to the fact that it isn't all about mentoring for the far-future. I immediately began to use, and benefit from, the connections (and newly-recognized confidence) I made there.

    Both of the programs (NLO and EMERGE) provide resources, networks, and skills for stepping up to lead. If someone is ready, it will happen more quickly. If not, then they continue to grow.

    As for ready to run and lead now, that is the point of a program like Emerge. It isn't a mentor-for-down-the-road program. It is for women who are ready and willing to step up now.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    The idea about supporting younger candidates is a good one, across the board, imo. When I lived in the NL I was always struck how much better I liked the idea that you work in government in your youth to learn how the system works, then take that knowledge to the business world, as opposed to the US pattern, where you establish influence in the business world, then peddle it to make policy.

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    If WINPAC had done that this year, we might have Reps-elect Michelle Eberle, Jessica Adamson, and Lynn Howe rather than Reps. Scott Bruun, Matt Wingard, and Sal Esquivel.

    Personally, I think that there should be more women in politics than there are today. The best people I've met in politics -- the least egotistical, most rational and collaborative people I've met tend to be women.

    I am glad that there are some pacs working on it.

    But with due respect, with the exception of Lynn Howe, the statement I've excerpted above is BS.

    Eberle and Adamson dramatically outspent their Republican opponents in the 2008 elecion cycle. Eberle alone spent more than a half million -- nearly double what Bruun spent. Adamson spent 2.5x what Wingard spent. The voters in those disticts were not buying whatever they were selling.

    As to the general topic of identity politics...

    Latinos constitute 10 percent of the population of the state, but the only latinos in public office are Susan Castillo and Sal Esquivel. Latinos are dramatically under-represented in key staff positions among Democratic politicians, progressive organizations, and most labor locals. They can't even get a street named in one of the most liberal cities in America.

    Does the DPO even have a latino caucus anymore?

    How come no one ever talks about that?

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    I agree that getting better representation for racial/ethnic groups, including Latinos. You always end up with better representation when your elected officials better reflect the makeup of the community. It's something I was fighting for when I ran for city council.

    I checked, and the Latino Caucus is indeed listed as one of the caucuses that is still active.

  • LT (unverified)

    "Adamson spent 2.5x what Wingard spent. The voters in those disticts were not buying whatever they were selling. "

    That could mean any number of things. Some people react to the individual candidates, some to the message, some to the age of the candidates or how long they have been active in the community, some to the tone of the campaign, some to whether a friend or relative knows one or both of the candidates. And no matter what the political professional class thinks of whether a candidate has "steam" or is likely to win, the actual voters in the district always make the final decision. And some years if the Republican incumbent only wins by 55% instead of more than 60%, that is considered a victory of sorts if the district is of the type where only 2 charismatic Democrats have won in the history of the district going back to when single member districts were first drawn. Not knowing the specifics of the campaign, I have no idea what happened. But I do know people who think the Future Pac money should have been spread around more instead of being dumped on one or a few "chosen" candidates while other worthy candidates and their volunteers feel ignored by what seems to be central office decision making unresponsive to anyone who is not an elected Democratic legislator.

    There are women as well as men who believe it is time for an accounting. Where did Adamson get that much money--personal fundraising or mostly help from Future Pac? Is anyone from FP responsible for making those decisions or is it a case of "the team makes the decisions, no one else has a right to know why". If the latter, that is a problem women, rural/downstate candidates, minorities have been fighting for decades.

    It is long past time to discuss the role of money in state rep. elections. There has been talk for a few years now about some kind of rural alternative to/complement of FP's target candidate campaign.

    For that matter, what is to stop a move to transparency in legislative elections? There has been a simmering campaign for years to end pass throughs. The goal is a system where Joe Jones writes a check to the campaign to elect Sam Smith. Sam then uses that money for salaries, or the Voters Pamphlet statement, or for office rent, postage, transportation, food for a fundraiser, etc. But the contribution goes solely to expenses of the campaign, nothing else. There is a legal view that a check written to a campaign is the property of the legal entity of the campaign, not to the candidate. This was discussed at the Public Comm. on the Legislature.

    Such reform might be helpful to the women, rural activists, Latinos, and everyone else not one of the favored few supported by a caucus campaign arm.

    In 2006 there was an excellent candidate for state rep. from District 20. Bilingual as the child of migrant workers, wonderful life story of having raised a family, earned a Master's degree, recently retired from teaching in Monmouth/Independence public schools. If you use the Google window here and type in Connie Garcia, you should find the post about her here in the fall of 2006. Where were any of these networks to help her? She drove a "popular" incumbent's victory margin down to the neighborhood of half the number of NAV registered in the district, and did it with a volunteer campaign, help from friends, help from county Democrats.

    This has been a good general discussion about women in politics, but I would suggest studying individual campaigns by female candidates. How did Kate Brown get started in politics? Darlene Hooley? Barbara Roberts? Vera Katz? Betty Komp? Jean Cowan? Sara Gelser?

    Ever wonder why Hillary Clinton became famous for signature pant suits (the Senate campaign version of black suit, bright blouse)? It is because of a rule of women in politics which has survived for decades---choose a "look", never deviate from it, and then reporters will have to talk about your ideas because your clothes and hair never change.

    There is an excellent book titled WOMEN WINNING which is more than 20 years old and uses Vera Katz and other Oregon examples. That and other sources (speeches, newspaper articles, etc) over the decades had very down to earth advice for women candidates. One was "stand for something, and if you don't know what you stand for, sit down".

    One research project someone interested in this topic should look into is this: The advent of modern political consultants in legislative campaigns is traced to the early 1990s. By that time we had already elected very strong women to the legislature, to legislative leadership, as Sec. of State and Governor, and as nominees for state and federal office incl. Ruth McFarland for Congress and Margie Hendricksen for US Senate.

    Here's the research question: How many strong women of the sort folks here would be impressed by (which has to include Nancy Ryles and Norma Paulus as well as Democratic women) got elected before consultants became so much a part of politics, and how many since then?

    If you read about the founding of Oregon Women's Political Caucus and Oregon NOW and their efforts in the 1970s and 1980s, you will discover that, like Obama's campaign this year, many improvements have been made with regard to women in politics, but many problems remain.

  • Counterpoint (unverified)

    While progressives focus on identity politics, monied interests will focus on backing fellow ideological travelers.

    While progressives focus on the color of people's skin, and whether or not they have penis, monied interests and fundamentalist zealots (redundant - yes) will find and support those whom will tow the ideological line.

    While progressives focus on chronological age, their opponents will find and support those whom agree with their worldview.

    Finally, while progressives continue to give much greater credence to race and ethnicity, their opponents will focus on the oft-forgotten, but equally important factor -CLASS.

  • Aron Carleson (unverified)

    Read also: Women's Political Discourse by Mayhead and Brenda Devore Marshall. "Profiles women in the most highly visable political offices today..." Great few pages about Ann Richards. Also Cantwell, Clinton, Boxer and one of my personal favorite's Barbara Roberts. Another read - though not a study - is about Jewel Lansing's run for Attorney General. "Campaigning for Office: A Woman RUN*S"

    1. Wish I would have had resources on how to deal with the negative campaigning.
    2. Then there was the male lobbyist that said "I won't support a woman who will leave her children to go to work." That was 2002 folks. Not 1960 (I thought about him this year and his candidate Palin. Wondered if he still felt the same? lol)

    I really love where I am at in my life right now, and I wouldn't trade it. I have been so lucky, but I also work really hard and have terrific family support. We have an awesome rep for HD30. But the prep has got to change for the future generation. Perhaps the attitudes will as well.

    my 2cents.

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    <h2>Oh, Aron, please, please, please do tell us which lobbyist that was.</h2>

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