Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit which trains woman to run for elected office, held an event called Elect Her at SVSU on Friday, Dec. 6. Women from all across the state of Michigan were invited to participate.
A video from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer welcomed all of the participants.
“These past few years have been groundbreaking with a record number of women in legislation,” Whitmer said. “Women all over the world are stepping up and speaking out.”
U.S. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow also spoke in the video.
“The best way to ensure government is responsive to women and families is to give women more seats in government,” Stabenow said. “Never lose focus on the big picture, and the big picture should always be making people’s lives better.”
The program’s facilitator, Ada Waelder, cited statistics referring to women in American politics, including the fact that “23.7 percent of U.S. Congress is made up of women.”
“Only 8.8 percent of women in Congress are women of color,” Waelder said. “Women who run for office are statistically as likely to win as men but are 50 percent less likely to actually run for office.”
In a panel discussion, Katie Albosta Kelly, Saginaw County’s Register of Deeds, said women need to run for office in order to create more equality in politics.
“Let’s level the playing field,” she said. “We need more women whose voices are heard. Let’s lift each other up and support one another. The more we come together, the more we are an unstoppable force.”
Brenda Moore, Saginaw’s mayor pro tem, and Kathleen Newsham, the mayor of Bay City, also attended the event and spoke about their experiences in office.
Vanessa Guerra, keynote speaker and state representative of the 95th District, talked about becoming involved in politics.
“My activism grew in when I went to college in 2007, and I heard of this young black man,” she said. “He happened to be Barack Obama, and he was a game changer for me. I then knew I could and would run as a person of color.”
Guerra said she was passionate about Elect Her because it gives attention to local politics.
“When we think about running for office we just think about federal-level positions,” Guerra said. “In reality, there are way more positions in our local area that women could run for, and that would really have more of an impact. I was glad to see this (event) brought to our area so that women can see there are positions which need them.”
She said women just have to go for it and run for office regardless of the obstacles that they face.
“Men never really hesitate,” she said. “As women, it’s time that we step up and we try it. The worst that can happen is that you lose, but there’s always another election cycle, and at least you’ve done it once, and you have experience under your belt.”
Alex Miller, an SVSU public administration graduate student and Elect Her participant, said she felt the event was empowering and phenomenal.
“This workshop has been phenomenal,” Miller said. “To not only network, but empower and educate each other will effect such positive change in our communities, addressing all of the issues everyone here is so passionate about.”
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