Wednesday, July 12, 2006

“You are not alone.”

Last night, a group of Democratic women candidates met at the ODP Headquarters to discuss the issues facing women running for office. We were lucky enough to have First Lady Kim Henry give an introduction and have Laura Boyd, Senator Debbe Leftwich, Representative Debbie Blackburn and Hannah Brenner as panelists. Our chair, Lisa Pryor, served as moderator and facilitator.

“People can tell if you are sincere.” – First Lady Kim Henry

Kim Henry, who spoke of her experiences running campaigns said, above all else, the candidate must believe in herself. In 2002, when her husband was running for governor, she said the only person who thought he would win was Brad. Even she didn’t think that he would be our next governor. And he won.

She also gave pointers on knocking doors, and reminded the women that they absolutely must raise the money necessary to win.

“I had no problem asking for money. I’m not doing this for me – I was asking to do a job for people I care about.” – Representative Debbie Blackburn

Representative Blackburn talked to the women about the necessary evil of fundraising. Men do not have a problem asking for money, so women should not either. She also reiterated the importance of knocking doors. In her first general election, she didn’t walk much, and earned the nickname “Landslide Blackburn” for pulling out a victory of 33 votes. Now she talks to candidates about the “just 5 more houses” syndrome. She told the women that if they were out walking, and were supposed to stop at 9 pm, and if they didn’t have the compulsion to walk just 5 more houses, then they shouldn’t be running.

She concluded with reminding Democrats that we should be Democrats, stating, “Don’t equivocate. Don’t be something you aren’t.”

“People want to vote for you – you just need to give them a reason.” – Laura Boyd, Ph.D.

Laura impressed upon the group the importance of having a succinct, strong message. She told the candidates that they needed to be able to tell a voter why they were running in 25 words or less. The message needs to be genuine to the candidate, and needs to matter to the constituency. She also spoke about the importance of a woman candidate’s ability to talk about the budget, taxes, homeland security and war – so she reaffirms her credibility as a candidate.

She talked about the importance of raising money – and that women needed to ask their friends and family first, and that they need to ask big. People (including women) are less likely to give money to women candidates, so those candidates have to fight for every penny.

“Your presence has an impact.” – Hannah Brenner, J.D.

Hannah provided incredible statistics about women running for office across the county – and how in every instance – “more Democratic women seek office than Republican women.”

She reminded the candidates that they were blazing a path for young women, and that they were not alone. She encouraged us as a party to continue to embrace women as candidates, and to continue bridging the leadership gap.

“Roosters Crow, Hens Deliver.” – Senator Debbe Leftwich

Senator Leftwich addressed the group and talked about her experiences both as a candidate herself and as a spouse to a candidate. She stressed targeting in direct voter contact, and reminded the group about the all-important tool the party provides – the voter file (Oklahoma VAN).

“THANK YOU!” – Courtney Ruark and Lindsey Cox

For all who attended, thank you for putting your name on the ballot. Thank you for sitting in the hot seat, so that women after you will have less difficulty in seeking office. Thank you to Kim Henry, Laura Boyd, Senator Leftwich, Representative Blackburn, Hannah Brenner and Lisa Pryor for sharing your time and expertise with our women candidates. Thank you to our volunteers Erin Langford and Kathrene Hewett for helping us set up and contact the candidates. And thank you to the Women's Leadership Fund for sponsoring the first of many events to energize women.

And, Lisa, thank you for encouraging the staff to create a much-needed forum for women. We are all looking forward to the next event!

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