By Donna

The BlogHer conference is special to the MOMocrats: It was where our group was born, following the 2007 Chicago event where the keynote was delivered by the late Elizabeth Edwards. This year, the world’s premier women’s blogging convention reconvened in the Windy City, where another woman we love, Jill Miller Zimon, announced that she is running for the legislature in Ohio.

So Jill was the perfect member of the BlogHer community to moderate a workshop instructing women on how to run for office. The experts on her panel represent the full gamut of American political views – but put those aside to encourage more women who aspire to run to make that decision…and shared the steps they have to make to launch a campaign.

Running for Office panel at BlogHer13The panelists were:

Denise Ferriozi, political director of EMILY’s List, who shared the experience of organizations with a particular viewpoint who look for candidates to support…

Linda Paulson of the non-partisan pro-choice Women’s Campaign Fund and She Should Run, who spoke from the viewpoint of organizations who work with women…

Campaign operative (and one of the few libertarian Republicans the MOMocrats enjoy hearing from) Liz Mair, who discussed what to expect when you’re expecting a campaign

And Sabrina L. Schaeffer of the very conservative Independent Women’s Forum, who talked about gender focused issue advocacy and context for gender issues and whether candidate should bring it up or not.

What follows is my live blog, which I typed furiously into an iPad as the women spoke. It is not a transcript but more of a transliteration, with some incomplete thoughts and sentences. I did make the effort to eradicate the autocorrect errors and hopefully, I got them all – but if I missed any hilarious ones, I am certain you will let me know in the comments.

Jill lives in Ohio, a city council woman in Cleveland suburb. Ran as a direct result of blogging, helped get a law changed that prevented people from having more than one yard sign up. Won the battle, named most influential person in town – was encouraged to run by husband and has soft launched a campaign for state assembly in Ohio.

Running for office can come to people in so many ways. Went to Camp Wellstone, out together by sons of the late Paul Wellstone. Three day boot camp for people entering politics. Their tactics are phenomenal. One thing that was said is you are not normal because of how much you think of politics, passion. There are people out there who do not even know who their mayor is. Those of us here are phenomenal because we know and think and care.

Linda: honored that there are women in the room who have run (about half the room)

Committed to removing the barriers that keep women from public leadership

First major barrier: we need to run (only 18% of Congress is women)

We need to encourage women to run, for each other

Much as Sandburg encouraged women to lean in at the business table, her org encourages women to run

Women question their qualifications. Why? Because we are asked to qualify ourselves more

What does that even mean?

If you wonder if you are qualified, chances are you are.

Build up your social support systems and shore up your confidence that you are qualified to run for office

Sad that there are only five women governors in the country. This is something we can do about it.

As women, we don’t have much power to determine who runs countries. But in government, we have that power. We can vote. We have a say.

This is a place where we can make a difference. We can show that women can lead.

When you meet a woman candidate, give her five dollars. Women give charitably, but tend not to give politically. Make that connection between candidates and cause – vote with your purse research at She Should Run website.

Big white elephant in the room: the nasty, ugly sexism. Name it change it campaign. Whether you might be portrayed as a stripper pole on a tshirt. Or that you will have problems raising kids, or reporters focusing on your fashion instead of policy decisions – this stuff hurts candidates by about ten points, what we have learned is by naming it, we change it. When someone does that, you remind them they wouldn’t make that comment if you were a man, let’s talk about this. A quick pivot. What candidates like Tammy Baldwin did.

Finally – we are here to help. Lots of organizations to support, so you are not running alone.

Jill: Rutgers Center for Women and Politics – research, resources – great resource for any woman interested in running

This topic of women not giving money – only four percent of political contributions come from women. This is a really untapped area in how we can use our dollars to support women.

Sexism and how subtle it can be: when running for city council, went door to door with kids looking for signatures – often would get why are you running? Why aren’t you running for school board? The assumption that it was more appropriate because she had children.

Never put out that she was a woman because it is clear. Also never put out that she was a mother. Important to bring up what made her a good candidate, never played the woman card. A colleague wanted to tell her he noticed her lipstick on her literature. Weird statement. Even little things like that threw her. Why not talk about her accomplishments? But no, he noticed her lipstick. Really have to change how we view women who run.

Liz Mair: practical things she has observed of candidates of both genders. Because we have fewer women who run, you have fewer potential mentors to talk with.

First campaign she ever worked on was for a woman who ran for Seattle city council. Worked at the RNC in 2008. It involved a rather high profile Republican who had sexist things thrown at her. Then worked on Carly Fiorina’s CA gubernatorial campaign.

Family and friends: the bigger the office is, the more grueling running will be. It is more than what you think it is going to be. As women, we have some advantages over men. She sees men who think it is going to be easy and are surprised. They don’t get how demanding it is going to be. But women candidates tend to be better prepared for doing a lot of things on limited sleep.

Think through it and make sure that you get buy in from friends and family because it will also be grueling for them and you will need their support.

Most likely your social circle will provide the basis for your network and if you get buy in from them early on, you will be more successful. Say you need some money early on, who do you go to? You build out your network as you go on.

Time considerations – don’t want to dissuade anyone from running. Thinks the biggest problem isn’t gender inequity but the power of incumbency. There has to be a much grater interest in challenging incumbents. That said, you quickly realize when watching from the outside – being in this position, if you are wrapped up in politics, it is because you are seeing all the good stuff and not the stuff that’s not fun. The sad fact is the bulk of campaign time is not on the fun stuff – it is sitting on the phone raising money.

Remember that it isn’t fun and you have to remember why you are doing it.

Organization – you will need a good one behind you. In some cases paid, some volunteer. You need to think about hiring campaign manager, someone to help with fundraising, find them. Communications, media, new media. You will have some interview requests, requests to show up at events or comment on controversy. You will need someone to handle this. Probably not a spouse. When the candidate gets trashed, the candidate shrugs it off but the spouse gets pissed. Why you need someone who isn’t your spouse.

May want minority outreach people.

Hiring and criteria: no yes men. Having someone who always agrees with you is great for your ego but is also a great way to lose. You need to hire people who will be willing to offer honest criticism, your ego can take it. Find people who will go the extra mile. Make sure someone on your team has a good relationship eith your spouse who can calm him down when it gets nasty.

Finally: do an honest inventory of your assets and liabilities. Bear in mind the way you are being depicted is not how you see yourself, which is not a bad thing. A lot of women in politics are characterized as bitches, but are generally not. There were people who thought Carly Fiorina was a bitch and anyone who knows her knows it is not true. Someone in the media mentioned that to Liz and she defended her. A reporter said the “B” label might not be a bad thing because right now, voters feel the country is so screwed up that a lot may want a “bitch” who can go to Congress and kick some ass. For some people, it’s not going to matter and may even be a positive.

Patty Murray – when she first ran for office was derided as a mom in tennis shoes. Thought it was interesting because as much as she was derided, a lot of people voted for her because they identified with her.

If you are thinking about it, if there’s a thing you care about – do not lose sight of that thing. There is the constant temptation to weigh in on the topic of the day. If you are running for school board, you are probably running because you care about education, not necessarily the Zimmerman verdict. Losing sight of your focus is absolutely deadly.

Mair honestly thinks in hindsight that that most of the GOP candidates who ran in 2012 had no idea of why they were running. Thinks a lot were dragged in because party operatives thought they should. That is not the reason to run. Do not lose sight of your reason to run.

There are many of you who run once, lose and then run again. This will work for you. Be consistent, this will work for you better than if you flip flop.

Jill: best piece of advice she got was to stay on message.

This will save you on the toughest day and make you feel good on best days.

Ties back to authenticity which is a value in itself. Important for persuading people to vote for you. It matters, people recognize it.

Denise of EMILY’s List:

Her group’s focus is on how to help you run and win. Talked about the real barriers. Talked about what you should think through before running. Then when you have taken the leap and run for office because you are not normal, there are orgs that can help you run and win.

Nothing more inspiring than seeing a woman in office making a difference every day.

We want you to run. But we have to ask is this the right person at the right time in the right place?

Why are you running?

81 percent said they wanted to change something in their community. That’s not why the guys do it. Men wake up, think they are awesome and want to share their awesomeness with the world.

Women literally wake up, want to get kids to school, do their jobs and create a great life for their kids. Politics are a means to making the world a better place for the next generation.

Ok to say you want to be powerful, but why really? You can come from a lot of different backgrounds, but what is your connection to the community.

what is the right time? Incumbency is the biggest barrier to women.

You should think about what you can do over the next five years to put yourself in position until the next guy retires.

Finally the right place: the reality is we live in a country with only a sliver of seats that are competitive. Got to think about where your town is. If you are a Democrat in a red district, you should think about a non partisan office or maybe you should move.

Ways we can help: not just raising money

Has a training program around the country asking women to come spend the day with them.

The planning you need to do, how to raise money, how to run a campaign

After those trainings, we recruit specific women to run for certain seats

Women have to be asked six times before they will consider running

Consider yourself asked every woman in his room

We can help you run a smart badass campaign by finding you the talented people who can work on your campaign, can help by hiring consultants, really help you make decisions about yhings coming your way

Average congressional campaign costs 2 million dollars – and Emily’s list can help you raise that

They mobilize women voters in targeted districts. Finally, once you ar in office we say go be a great legislator and let’s think about ehat’s next.

In spirit of equal opportunity, Jill mentioned GOP’s counterpart, ShePAC.

Notion of planning: listening and asking – three action words that are essential for women who want to run.

Sabrina: focused on expanding the number of women who value limited government

Overwhelmingly, the people writing checks for politics are men

Also envious of everything the women on the left are doing

No group has done this better than EMILY’s List

Her group doesn’t help women run for office. Political values outweigh someone’s gender – but she is a strong believer in gender differences.

Women and men bring different things to the table

Women have a different communication style. Doesn’t want to diminish the idea that we need more women in office

The reality is that there are difficulties women face that men do not. She relayed a story about one of the Republican primary debates, when Michele Bachmann surprised viewers by leaving the stage for a few minutes. People wondered why. It turned out that one of her false eyelashes had come loose and she needed it repaired. This doesn’t happen to a man, and she doesn’t think women should be denigrated for something like this, because the amount of makeup and grooming a woman needs to do to go on camera and meet the public is what is expected of them.

In order to better achieve women in office, we have to ask why

Some research and more should be done. To identify the fears, etc

Host of different gender differences which may help explain our under representation.

Thinks it is bigger than just sexism,

Cited research on why women are more election averse than men

Noisiness of the campaign cycle, the inability to get a message out amid the media clutter

Something we can begin to tackle, but there is no silver bullet in overcoming the 24 hour news cycle. Don’t respond to scandal of the day if it has no relevance to what you are doing

The session opened for audience questions.

Question for Liz: when are you going to run?

Not for her. Thinks there are maybe five or six districts where she could be elected. One in Seattle, a few in New Hmpshire. They like libertarians there. Otherwise it is slim pickings. There are other ways of getting your voice heard.

Not convinced it is for her. Her husband though is interested in running and if he does, you all need to watch because it will be a serious comedy show.

Jill: from her experience – she really wants to get the thing done. Cites studies that women get legislation introduced and collaborate in a way to get things passed. Women want to be effective and think about that all the time.

If Liz thought she could be effective, she might find running as more attractive.

However, her views don’t line up 100 percent with either GOP or Democratic stances in issues.

Denise: when we look at our abysmal numbers it is even harder for women to be elected to executive office than legislative, because of lack of role models. If we want to be effective let’s see about stepping up to run fr mayor or other executive offices,

Liz told a story about a New Hampshire district where a demonstration was held by a group of gun enthusiast yoga aficionados. Described the sight of AK-47 toting yoga demonstrators in New Hampshire.

Linda – if we want more done, need more women on the Hill

Question: when deciding to run, what comes first?

Jill: if I were trying to get free advice from Liz, that’s what I would ask
Recounts her own story as she contemplated running for state office
As recently as this week, she is still asking people these questions

Liz: look at non partisan offices in your state. Harder to find candidates to run for those because there are no hot button issues that can get you a lot of press. See if something appeals. Harder to find good candidates. When you build a team out, whether you need an existing operation, wouldn’t worry about lack of structure already in place. Think about how to reach people in unconventional methods. Everyone thinks about the big political blogs, but if you can find a way to relate to people who are not political, that’s going to make the difference.

Example of the way Obama found people who were not engaged and brought them in, he expanded the pie rather than going to another small slice,

This is something also done by Ron and Rand Paul.

Jill recommended a book: How to Win a Local Election, good nuts and bolts

National conference of state legislatures reports that unlike the US Congress, the number of women elected to state office is going down – just 14 percent of state level seats are held by women.

It is really critical for those of you who care about what is happening at the state level

question: asking about communication strategies that work for women

Liz: tends to be a focus n the wizardry instead of what it was in aid of. Enabling the level of Obama contact – that is the real purpose of having the tech and data stuff

Communications is getting a broader message out. In North Dakota if you look at last senate race, it is being local, Heitkamp ran a good race was effective at showing local concerns

Audiences are not all the same need a good cross section of each of them
Know your local media

Make your mark on regional level

Denise: targeted voter contact is what will win campaigns. Find people who will turn out, expand that base and get them to vote for you

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad