By Linda Norris-Waldt, Emerge Maryland, Class of 2014
Chair of the Frederick County Ethics Task Force
Were you as disappointed as I was when Al Gore didn’t prevail in 2000? There’s a lesson there for Emerge America women like me who didn’t prevail in their elections either.
Use the power of your election to accomplish your goals.
I’m an environmentalist who never got over that hanging chads did not go our way and bring us Al Gore as president–but think about what he has accomplished through his writing, his films and is celebrity since it happened. Women from Emerge can be smart and do the same thing, I’ve discovered.
I was Emerge-trained in Maryland’s second class (graduating in 2013) and filed for an at-large Frederick County Council seat in 2014.
I “emerged” as top-votegetter in the Democratic primarily (two of five candidates went on to run in the General) and I knew my training in messaging, strategy and fundraising asks was paying off.
Yet even the best campaigns cannot fight a strong headwind, and the loss of Democratic Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (and the turnout of Maryland’s hungry Republican electorate who smelled it coming) swept the win away from many down-ballot Democrats like me.
But two of my key issues: good government (strengthened ethics laws) and multicultural tolerance (repudiation of an Official English Language ordinance) could still become reality later this summer—and I had a big part of it because the election increased my profile and the respect for what I had to say. (Chalk it up again to Emerge Maryland messaging training!)
I decided not to leave the political capital I had on the table — and I’ve become a leader for change. For one of my top issues (the English Only ordinance repeal), I aligned with fellow Emerge Maryland graduate, successful 2014 candidate and County Council member Jessica Fitzwater to recruit stakeholders in a well-planned, strategic approach to overturn the ordinance. (The power of the Emerge network!)
The second project, rewriting our ethics laws, is coming to fruition as the County Council will submit and vote on changes to the law from the recommendations of a citizen task force I headed. The citizen groups’ charge was to produce model legislation for strengethened ethics laws.
Remember that as Emerge alumnae, our political leadership training can be used for more than elected office. See what change you can influence through strategic use of your political capital—like Al Gore, don’t give up because the election is over. Your issues are still there for the taking!