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Darrell Berkheimer: Women are moving to use their political power

Other Voices
Darrell Berkheimer

Will next year be the Year of The Women at the ballot box?

The movement to make that happen includes many California and Nevada County women, and at least eight different organizations and programs designed to prepare and support women candidates.

Nevada County has several Indivisible Women groups working toward that goal; and another quite active Indivisible group is located in Auburn.

The success women experienced in last month’s elections — by winning numerous local and state contests across the nation — has bolstered the movement. But it’s no secret that the main impetus occurred after President Donald Trump’s election, and the women’s marches throughout the nation after his inauguration.

Marilyn Nyborg, one of three co-founders of Nevada County Indivisible Women, observed that the increasing national political activism by women is the singularly “most positive result of the election of Trump as president.” And it’s apparent that women have been disgusted, angered and motivated over several other issues as well.

Itara O’Connell, a council member for NC Indivisible Women, said, “Women are running for office because they care about the environment, health care, education and creating policies that would support children’s health and development. They are running because they want a voice in the many issues that affect them directly.

“In the past women have felt their qualifications were not good enough,” she continued. “Seeing the president win with no qualifications, no knowledge of any of the issues, and no desire to learn the skills necessary to be president, has got to help encourage women.

“Women have often gone into social services, teaching, etc.; but seeing their hard work go down the drain from poor male policies probably also influenced some to run. And they can see the support that women are getting now,” O’Connell added.

Another major reason has been the movement by Republican legislators to limit women’s choice by enacting laws that reduce or force the closures of health clinics that provide abortions. And a more recent motivation has been the soaring reports of sexual harassment, sexual predators and misogyny.

The women candidates from this area include two seeking election to the Nevada Irrigation District; one for county board of supervisors; one for sheriff, and two who want to oust Doug LaMalfa from his District 1 seat in Congress.

Another four have announced their candidacy to succeed Tom McClintock as the District 4 Congress member. And three more want to work out of the governor’s office — one as governor and two as lieutenant governor.

Long and growing list

The candidates hoping to unseat LaMalfa are Marty Walters, an environmental scientist in Plumas County, and Jessica Holcombe, an Auburn attorney.

The two seeking election to the irrigation district are Ricki Heck, a real estate broker and Nevada County Planning Commissioner, for NID Division 1, and Laura Peters of Lincoln, a water resources engineer, running for NID Division 4.

Running for the Board of Supervisors to represent Grass Valley is Hilary Hodge, the executive director of Sierra Commons, a local nonprofit volunteer, and a Nevada City Chamber of Commerce board member.

Candidate for Nevada County Sheriff is Capt. Shannon Moon, a 27-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. She wants to succeed her boss, retiring Sheriff Keith Royal.

Candidates for lieutenant governor are Eleni Kounalakis, a former Sacramento developer and former ambassador to Hungary, and Gayle McLaughlin, who has served two terms as mayor of Richmond.

Running for governor is Delaine Eastin of Union City, a former state Superintendent of Public Instruction and former Assembly member.

The four women running to unseat McClintock have particularly impressive credentials. Regina Bateson, a political science professor, is a former Foreign Service officer for the State Department. Roza Calderon of Lincoln is a geoscientist. Jessica Morse has been a national security strategist for both the Defense and State Departments; and Rochelle Wilcox is an attorney who is a First Amendment specialist in support of free speech and journalists like those of us who write for The Union.

Organized support

The organizations enlisting and supporting the women candidates, in addition to the Indivisible Women groups, include the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Emily’s List, She Should Run, VoteRunLead, the Emerge program, Women2Women, and Collective PAC.

Emily’s List is a political action group that backs female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights. President Stephanie Schriock reported nearly 21,000 women have contacted Emily’s List this year to discuss running for office. She noted that total compares with only 920 contacts during 2016.

She Should Run, located in our nation’s capital, is another organization supporting women considering a run for elective office. That organization recently reported it has been contacted by 40,000 women.

Sofia Pereira of Arcata, Humboldt County, serves as community manager for She Should Run. Sofia, a 2014 graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, was elected to Arcata City Council, where she serves as Vice Mayor. She is studying women in politics as a graduate student at Humboldt State University.

This past summer, She Should Run announced its goal is to achieve gender parity by 2030. That will involve helping women to fill 250,000 of our nation’s approximately 500,000 elected positions.

The Emerge program is a 70-hour training program to prepare Democratic women candidates. Participants meet one weekend a month for six months to receive comprehensive training in 10 areas — communications, fundraising, media and messaging, networking, campaign strategy, field operations, endorsements, technology, cultural competency and ethical leadership.

Nyborg noted that both Hodge and County Supervisor Heidi Hall have completed the program, and added that several other area women are enrolled in the program.

VoteRunLead, a 3-year-old national nonprofit, is another organization that provides resources and guidance for women. It offers an online seminar titled “This is How You Run for Office.” Erin Vilardi, founder and CEO, reported the organization has experienced exponential growth since last year’s election.

Vilardi remarked 2018 could be the “Year of The Women” as she speculated that one-third of the thousands of women who have contacted VoteRunLead are planning to seek office in next year’s elections.

While many of the women’s organizations are supporting mostly Democrats, Mimi Walters, a California Republican, and Sarah Chamberlain of the Republican Main Street Partnership, this year started the Women2Women political action committee to finance female GOP candidates.

In talking about the increase in women seeking election, Walters said, “You see this on both sides; women haven’t traditionally given to political races like the men have, and we’re trying to change that culture and narrative.”

Collective PAC, created to support both female and male candidates of color, was launched by Stefanie Brown James, a former Barack Obama campaign official, and her husband.

In citing the need for the PAC, Brown James said: “Especially for black women, raising money is oftentimes a major deterrent to why they don’t get into politics to run for election. You have to get to the point where you feel comfortable asking people for money – family, friends and strangers,” she added.

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For The Union patrons who have been reading my past columns, you already know how I desire to see more women elected – especially to Congress, where the men apparently give priority to corporate interests over the needs of our citizens.

But for those who missed my earlier comments, I believe when many more women are in elective offices, they will vote for the human infrastructure we need while showing less partisanship and more fiscal responsibility. Women tend to be more nurturing than men as they emphasize the needs of families over themselves.

In addition, by virtue of their experiences juggling household demands while raising children and working in their careers, women tend to act when action is needed. They seldom have the luxury of being able to procrastinate interminably. As a result, I predict we will see much less gridlock if half of the members in Congress are women.

Women also have some numerical advantages that they’re finally moving to employ. We have 5 million more women in our nation’s population – 51 percent. And in November of last year nearly 10 million more women voted than men – 73.7 million to 63.8 million.

Perhaps our male-dominated politicians and corporations will finally see the handwriting on the wall.

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.

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