Recently, the local women’s Democratic club I serve on completed its endorsement interviews for the upcoming primary elections. In the 16 races we considered for endorsement, there are only five women running, comprising just 25 percent of the Democrats running for office in Santa Clara County, continuing a troubling decline of female candidates locally. The county Board of Supervisors loses its only woman to term limits this year and her successor will most likely be a man. For a place once termed the “Feminist Capital of the world” for its role as an incubator of women in politics and feminist activism, this is particularly dismaying.
As the board discussed its recommendations for endorsement, we evaluated the candidates based on their commitment to women and family issues. When it came time to analyze a race in which there are two Democratic women vying for the same seat, we found ourselves in a real predicament. We debated the merits of each candidate for longer than we considered all the previous races combined. But why? At one point during the debate, one of my fellow board members astutely pointed out that we are overly critical of women candidates and don’t always support each other, echoing many of the same sentiments expressed in our Emerge trainings.
Women will come up with a thousand reasons why they shouldn’t run for office—family obligations, lack of support, not feeling qualified —while men will brazenly take up the call. We simply feel like we do not have what it takes to successfully run and serve in public office. That’s why programs like Emerge are so critical. Emerge not only gives us the training and tools we need to empower ourselves to change the face of politics, but cultivates an amazing sisterhood of support.
Hilary Clinton once said, “There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard.” As women, we have what it takes and we must be heard.
Class of 2012