Taking Her First Step Toward Running For Office
Research shows that women are hesitant to get involved in politics. They don’t want to deal with the negatives. They don’t want to be targeted or gossiped about. Maybe they are the primary caretakers for their kids, or maybe they work long hours at their job, or maybe they are busy doing all the things we do to stay busy, or any combo of all three! I get it! I’m there too! I had to be convinced to apply to Emerge Oregon, a program that trains women to run for office.
What convinced me? It started when I met Shemia Fagan (SD-24) in 2014 and then Janelle Bynum (HD-51) in 2016. They are normal women, y’all! They are doing all the things we all do: working, making dinner, exercising, playing at the park with their kids, happy hour with their BFFs, coaching teams, but also, working so hard to make our community a better place. Getting to know both of them, gave me the confidence of “huh...maybe one day...” But, I stayed busy doing the things I do. I didn’t feel the need to host a fundraiser or knock on doors. The first time I ever volunteered in any political way was summer 2016. I made phone calls to Democrats reminding them to drop off their ballots.
Then, Election 2016 happened. Yep. I was sick for a week (which then turned into 2.5 years, but I digress). I thought, “Other than moping around my house, what can I DO? How can I have a positive impact?” I had heard about Emerge Oregon and started following their social media. Y’all have lived the last two years along with me, so you all know how bad it’s been. We don’t need to replay it here, right?
I was at a fundraiser for Kate Brown last summer. It was about 110 degrees and just miserably hot. There was a woman wearing an Emerge nametag, sitting on a bench in the shade. I so desperately wanted to sit in the shade that I struck up a conversation with her. She asked me if I’d be interested in the program. I said, “No, I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m not qualified at all.” She asked me what I do to stay busy? I told her I’m on a committee for the city, and she said, “Well, isn’t that appointed?” I said it was. She said “Honey, you’ve been appointed; you’re already halfway to elected office anyway!” I laughed, went home, started my application, then doubted myself and left it half finished for two months.
The final tipping point for me was the Kavanaugh hearings. I was in Disneyland with my kids, and I got an email from Emerge. ”As I sit here watching Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed to the Supreme Court...” Ugh, reading that broke my heart into a million pieces. I finished my application, interviewed horribly (in my opinion), and what, got accepted?!
Emerge is such an amazing program. I’m still a bit shocked they let me in, but I am learning SO much, and I’m feeling confident and secure in my decision to get more involved. Things that were terrifying and so far out of my comfort zone, are now very easy for me to do.
Here is my ask. It’s easy! Do you want more women representing you in local politics? Do you want to see women writing laws and making decisions that directly impact you? Are you pro-choice and concerned about men writing laws that dictate what women can and can’t do with their own bodies? Do you attend every school board meeting? Have you ever watched CNN and felt like you wanted to puke? Are you horrified seeing how brown and black people are treated in this country? Do you have a heart and want good things for your kids and my kids?
Are you, or do you know, a woman that is passionate, interested in policy or volunteering and wants to help make a positive change? ENCOURAGE THEM TO APPLY! Over and over again, until they DO! Then donate to their campaign, knock on doors for them, vote for them and then sit back and watch them take over the world!
Jennifer Brownlee is a community leader, volunteer and future candidate. She lives in Happy Valley, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.