I don’t know about you but after the results of the November 2, 2010 elections I was ready to get to work on 2012. Many in the Midwest lost ground in the 2010 election cycle. I know in Oklahoma, Democrats lost all of the statewide seats and fell further behind in efforts to regain the State House and Senate. I called Missouri Federation President, Charli Seitz, the night of the election and Missouri was going much the same way. We were ready to get together and talk about what we do and where we go from here, so it was perfect that our Midwest Regional Meeting was set for Saturday, November 20, 2010 in Kansas City, MO.
The Missouri Federation of Women’s Democratic Clubs hosted the 2010 Midwest Regional Meeting in Kansas City, MO at the Hyatt Place KCI and our themes were Women Winning Elections and Diversity in Politics. During the NFDW Convention last June in Knoxville the women of the Midwest Region put together a list of workshops and topics we wanted to have at the meeting and Missouri set the wheels in motion. Midwest Regional Director, Tami Arreguin, called the meeting to order. Women from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Indiana, and Michigan were present. We were welcomed by Kansas City Council Woman, Deb Hermann, who may soon be the Mayor of Kansas City. Kansas City has a majority of seven women serving on the City Council. Councilor Hermann touched upon her election success and credited her victory to having a network of people and her ability to raise money.
The first guest speaker, MO State Representative Sara Lampe, addressed her experience as a female elected official and what she has seen with recruiting women to run for office. When it comes to family, women have a sense of responsibility that men do not have. It’s also not enough to want to run; you have to have some strengths that will help you win. You have to be able to WOO-Win Others Over. You also need to be connected enough to have a network from which you can raise money. Men have no problem asking other men for money but women write 80% of the checks in the U.S. so they are more aware of money issues. Many women come from a background of divorce, no money, mortgage and children so they will need to have financial support from others to win. Many of those others will be people who wouldn’t ordinarily support them. People will want to get to know you before you make the ask. Money follows ideas so women need to sell the idea of why it is important. Diversity is strength-if we are all alike, we have weaknesses.
Our second speaker was Dr. Julie Warm from the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She shared theories, facts and statistics with us about women in the U.S. serving in public life. Many of the women running for office these days come from the areas of business and law. Areas of education and social sciences are still untapped. The U.S. is 83rd in the world in women elected to office. After the November, 2010 elections women will represent 15.5% of those elected, down from 17% previously. Studies have shown that when asked in school girls expect to perform more political acts-voting, donating, demonstrating, writing letters-than boys. However, years later the actual performance of political acts is outnumbered by men. Research shows that men feel qualified to run because they believe they are just as good as anyone else, while women believe they should have the credentials and have to be asked to run. Women are also more issue-oriented and get involved because they want to get something done. Some of the theories on why women don’t run are cultural-raising children, social-women are told they cannot do it (gender), structural-women lack the club memberships for politics. At the conclusion of Dr. Warm’s presentation we broke into groups and brainstormed ideas for engaging women of all ages in the political process through our local clubs. Each group then presented their ideas to all of the attendees so that we would have a list of ideas to take back to our states and share with our clubs.
During lunch Regional Director Tami Arreguin spoke to us about effective fundraising methods and its purpose beyond the idea of raising dollars, but also raising awareness and enthusiasm about the campaign. After lunch former Missouri NEA Executive Director, Peggy Cochran lead a workshop on diversity. We discussed stereotypes, bias and prejudice on many levels, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship status, employment status, education status, social status, and even political party. The purpose was to show a greater awareness of some of our own stereotypes and biases, as well as learn ways to respond that builds unity. To go deeper into religion and its place in politics, our last speakers were Reverend Ginger Moore and Melissa Brooks. Each of us was asked to write a prayer we would give publicly if asked to do so. We reviewed different aspects of prayer like to whom we offered the prayer and of what we offered. This served to remind us that even among ourselves we each firmly believe something different about something of which we follow in complete faith, much like John Godfrey Saxe’s, The Blind Men and the Elephant.
This concluded our meetings for the day but many of us continued on with festivities at Kansas City’s Zona Rosa holiday lighting ceremony and then dinner and some shopping. Most of us left with the belief that we received something of value to take back and share with our clubs. The meeting served a very constructive purpose that certainly prepares us to move forward after the 2010 setback. We left with a plan for 2011 that we believe will bring Democratic victory in 2012.
Special thanks to Charli Seitz, Cathy Spainhower, and the Missouri Federation of Women’s Democratic Clubs for hosting a wonderful and successful meeting. Also, thanks to Tami Arreguin for her leadership as Director of the Midwest Region.
Christie Breedlove-Oklahoma Federation of Democratic Women