• Molly Lee

Oregon Women's Campaign School

NWGSDPDX was thrilled to be a sponsor of this year's OWCS that was held Jan 20-21 in Portland. For thirty years, the school has offered a weekend workshop every election year.

"The Oregon Women’s Campaign School is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization run by a board of volunteers and financed entirely through voluntary contributions. The School originated from the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus. Formed in 1972, the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus was a bipartisan group formed by Gretchen Kafoury, Margie Hendriksen, Jeanne Dost, and others. They were reacting to a trend that still corrodes American democracy, under representation. These women wanted to challenge the “old boys club” mentality in politics, especially at a time when women still didn’t have a legal right to choose.

In 1979, the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus came to the conclusion that working within the male-dominated government was only one piece to increasing women’s role in their government. Getting women elected into office was the other essential piece. The School was created to encourage, educate, and support women running for office. The School’s function remains the same. However, over the decades, the School’s mission shifted from female candidates to any candidate that is a champion for reproductive justice.

It is essential that we have reproductive justice activists and electeds fighting for our rights here in Oregon. All people should have access to reproductive health care, regardless of someone’s income, race, gender or immigration status, and we are investing our time to make that a reality. Oregon is the only state in the union that has no legal restrictions to access to abortion. We helped train the champions that fought for that title and the School will continue to educate our future activists and electeds to protect and expand that right. Let’s continue to make Oregon a woman-friendly state by electing champions of reproductive justice!"

We were thrilled to send Sandra Assasnik from Portland to the activist track and Elizabeth Weltin from Bend to the campaign track.


Here's Elizabeth's takeaways from the weekend:

I know I am not alone in my journey into politics and activism. In the past year women who have never once thought about getting into the game, have stepped up and put themselves out there to learn new skills, to have their voices heard, to take risks and make connections that they never would have considered before. Before.

My story is just one of many and I am so proud to be among a chorus of others saying, “Enough. It’s time things change, and in a big way. If the proverbial “they” won’t do it, well, step aside, because I have shit to do.”

In the way life does, a few culminating circumstances came together to push me into the fray of the resistance. Once upon a time, I used to care for women in their pregnancies and childbirth. Then I had my own wonderful baby and my health spiralled inexplicably out of control. I went from care provider to care receiver. My career was no longer accessible. My needs were vulnerable to the whims of old, rich, white men and I was under attack.

With my back aching and my soul howling, I went to war. My own Congressional Representative, Greg Walden, became my enemy. He threatened my right to health. He threatened my family’s financial security. He attacked me and those like me, those that were already down and trying to figure out how to get through another hard, painful, challenging day. Fuck that guy and all that he is and stands for. I didn’t know how to fight this fight, but like most of us, it was not a choice to not figure it out.

I found some friends. I found some women that were tired, pissed, hurt and feed up. We looked around and asked friends and like minded strangers to join us. Under constant assault, we grasped around for a plan. Eventually, we found Indivisible, we found the local Democratic party, we helped start a PAC, and we connected with so many great and strong and resilient resistance groups online.

I organized Die-Ins and AHCA protests. Here’s my truth, standing and marching with signs hurts me. Literally. On a bad day, putting one foot in front of the other, in the cold, on uneven, frozen ground and cement makes my body shout and cry. Yet there I was persisting, because my gut said, “It can get worse. So much worse. Walk now or you might not have a chance in the future.” We won that battle. Greg Walden, you heartless, wolf in sheep’s clothing, we bet you. You and your buddies went down in a blaze of our glory.

Still, so many battles left to fight. But it’s good to have a win, it’s good to see the righteous have our day. It felt a little less exhausting to get up in the morning and figure out how to go to war on the next attack on the American Dream they’ve thought up during the night.

Now it’s election season, and women all across the country are standing up and saying, “Yes, me. I’ll do it. I am smart. I am courageous. I can work hard. Get out there, vote for me and I’ll be your voice.” And I want to support them and put my skills to work. I want to have their back. I guess it’s time to go to school. Get some education on how to do all that. I’ve got a bunch of degrees and all sorts of great nursing and midwifery skills, unfortunately, I don’t think that will help me get a my candidate of choice elected.

Oregon Women’s Campaign School showed up in my Facebook feed all of a sudden one day. It took me all of 24 hours to decide that was where I was headed and what I needed to do. Emerge and Emily’s List are great but they don’t have a specific Campaign Management track and, hey look at that, OWCS does (plus an activist track). This was what I was looking for!

Oh, and hey there’s Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX looking to send folks under sponsorship to the school. Once upon a time, I would have talked myself out of saying, “Hey, I’m not in Portland, I’m not running for office, but what do you think, NWGSD? Want to take a chance on me?” But I didn’t talk myself out of it and I did reach out and they did say, “Hell, yes.” And while I was waiting for their “Hell, yes.” I made my first personal GoFundMe and I thought I’d just put it out there incase I didn’t get a sponsorship and to cover some travel expenses. My village stood up and said, “GO TO SCHOOL!” and I was funded in days, which was beyond expected.

Before that GoFundMe was even fully funded, I’d been asked to run a campaign. “Wooah, NELLY! Let’s not put the cart before the horse. I literally have NO clue how to even conceive of running a campaign. I appreciate your vote of confidence but please hold while I get myself some education.”

To school I went. And, damn! There they were, a whole lotta women who were jumping off the deep end into something brand new and never before considered. Running for office for the first time, getting connected into activist work, figuring out how to run a campaign. And they were young and many were women of color. And my heart, fist punched the sky.

We heard from amazing speakers on reproductive freedom and we heard from candidates making their first run. It was the first time, under banks of fluorescent lights and in chairs designed specifically for spinal torture, that I felt biddy with inspiration.

In the campaign manager track, it was down to business. Which if you know me, was like a 5 year old going to a birthday party. Calendaring, yes PLEASE! Calculating win numbers, hell YEAH! Messaging, don’t make me burst into tears of happiness in front of all these people!

Saturday and Sunday was full out, non-stop information dump, but it wasn’t enough. There was no way for it ever to be enough.

I’ll tell you why. Because the demand for people doing this work is huge and that means there aren’t enough experienced women out there to help on all the campaigns of all the women running. So I’m hitting the ground running. I didn’t even get to enact the age old nursing adage, “See one. Do one. Teach one.” I’m skipping See One. I’m Doing one. I’ll be taking notes, so I’ll be able to Teach One of you, as soon as I’ve made it through Done One. That’s what I’m calling the midterms, Do One 2018.

So thank you Nasties. Thank you village. I’ve graduated in record time. As of this week, I’m officially a Campaign Manager.

I take great pride in introducing to you, Eileen Kiely, Democratic Candidate for Oregon House District 53.

- Elizabeth Weltin


Here's Sandra's takeaways from the weekend:

  • The first thing that really struck me was the importance of how we articulate values. These values should embed value and promote immigrant rights, civil rights, reproductive justice, economic justice and LGBTQ justice. For many of us who have not been active in reproductive justice, we were updated with a better description.of what we are fighting for, an the emphasis should be on using the term, "reproductive justice" and not just "pro-choice."

  • Oregon is a leader and the Reproductive Health Equity Act is making a difference! Washington and Colorado are building on this work in order to create legislation and policy that includes: no cost coverage to reproductive health care; insurance to cover abortions; no exclusion due to citizenship; affirmation in state law.

  • It is so important to tell our stories. Families and individuals should be able to make decisions. Individuals' stories can make differences. Two stories, one about being denied coverage for post-partum services because of legal status and another about a transgender person who needed a hysterectomy were powerful and moving. Many of us have our own stories. I was inspired to start sharing my own stories more often and openly.

  • Presenters underscored the need to be intersectional, everyone needs to be able to seem themselves in these partnerships. This means thinking outside of traditional thought. We need to provide hope and inspiration. The works of Audre Lorde, writer and activist, were shared as inspiration. I looked her up and feel in love with many of her statements am learning more of her work. She said, "When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So, it is better to speak." "If I did't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive." "The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower." And best of all, "Revolution is not a onetime event.

  • I heard the following during the meetings and these statements rang true: "This is not about your resume. Who you are matters." "For female candidates, we need more validators. It is a fact." "Run, run, run....and, it is not enough to run, start out running as a legislator, not just the school board." "If we spend all our time on being defensive, we will just be tired and depleted." "I am not apologizing." - Sandra Assasnik

#makeadifference #donationrecipient

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