Women Running for Congress: What Tools Are Needed to Win?

By Lorelei Erisis | October 18, 2018 | 3 Minute Read

The year 1992 is often referred to as the “Year of the Woman,” in which a record number of women were elected to Congress. All signs point to 2018 being a second “Year of the Woman,” as the number of women running for Congress has continued to grow, and include candidates from all different backgrounds.

While many talk about their hopes for a “Blue Wave” of Democrats taking back Congress, we’re simultaneously seeing what might be called a “Wave of Women.” Across the country, more and more women have started to campaign and win their primary races. Most notably, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in New York, who beat out a ten-term incumbent.

And of course, here in Massachusetts, out of the 18 female candidates for U.S. Congress and Statewide Elected Executive seats, 11 won their primaries. This included the stunning success of Ayanna Pressley who also beat a ten-term incumbent in the race for the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District.

Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, however, Pressley is no untested newcomer to politics. Among her many other accomplishments, such as becoming the first Black woman elected to the Boston City Council, she was also one of the founding board members of Emerge Massachusetts. An organization that is focused on getting more Democratic women in Massachusetts politics.

Emerge Massachusetts is one of a growing number of state affiliates of Emerge America, a full-spectrum, political incubation organization that exists to cultivate, nurture, and support Democratic women running for any political office—from Town Clerk and City Council to United States Senator.

Emerge Massachusetts states three pillars for their program; they aim to:

  • “Recruit…Democratic women who should run for office and get them into our training programs,”
  • “Train…Democratic women with the tools they need to run and win, and”
  • Connect…Provide a powerful network of alumnae, elected officials, and gatekeepers who can open doors.”

Emerge Massachusetts offers boot camps for Democratic women who are actively campaigning to run for public office during this election cycle. These are shorter, intensive trainings were developed to give women “the skills they need to turbocharge their campaigns.” They also offer a newly piloted “Campaign Staff Training” program, designed to train women who want to work in behind the scenes roles to support the campaigns of others. This includes training in messaging, fieldwork, fundraising, the role of campaign staff, and what it takes to win.

And finally, the signature program of Emerge Massachusetts is an “…in-depth, six-month, 70-hour training program that inspires candidates to run and gives them the tools to win.” Once accepted into the program, these Democratic women meet once a month in where they receive comprehensive training from, “… a premiere team of campaign consultants, advisors, and staff from all over the country.” During this training, they learn everything a woman in politics needs in order to run a successful campaign. This includes curriculum focused on public speaking and communication, networking, ethical leadership, labor and endorsements, campaign strategy, and more.

Since the inception of the “Emerge America” program in 2002, they have trained more than 4,000 women to run for office, with 475 alumnae currently serving in office across the United States. Including, right here, where we’re seeing a growing number of women in Massachusetts politics.

But even if you’re not ready to be one of the many women running for Congress, it’s easy to get involved. Emerge Massachusetts offers fellowships for women to gain experience organizing and training, as well as internships for younger women finding their path to service.

Get involved in helping to change the face of politics with Emerge Massachusetts!

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