By Kim Huynh
It used to be anaxiom of the national culture: California sets the trends, breaks the mold, embraces change. And if the women of Emerge California have their way, that will be true again, at least where politics and government are concerned.
Founded in 2002 by a passionate group of Bay Area women, Emerge California aims to speed up the rate at which women are running for and winning elective office. By training women, exposing them to the real world of partisan competition and party operations, Emerge gives its graduates a road map to run, win and seek higher office.
“Emerge California isn’t just another training program,” said Kimberly Ellis, president. “Our alumnae are running for office, winning, sitting at decision-making tables, and championing progressive policy.”
The numbers speak for themselves—of more than 250 Emerge California graduates, half are currently running for, appointed to or serving in elected office, and of those who have run, almost 70% have won. More than 100 program participants have been appointed to local and state boards and commissions.
Participants in the seven-month Emerge program engage in over 70 hours of in-depth candidate training, mastering subjects such as public speaking and communication, fundraising, media and messaging, networking, campaign strategy, field operations, technology and new media, diversity, cultural competency and ethical leadership through intensive, cohort-based learning. Training includes sessions on the Democratic Party platform and labor issues, and graduates emerge, excuse the pun—or not—“ready-to-run” for office.
The organization’s progressive efforts could not have come at a more pivotal moment, as the number of elected Democratic women in office remains flat or even declines. Fewer than 30% of California state legislators are women, and the Golden State has yet to elect a female governor. Emerge California has been so successful that it is now part of a national organization working in 14 states that has, collectively, trained more than 1,000 women.
To recruit the Class of 2014, Emerge California embarked on an extensive “Tour de Emerge” providing webinars and in-person information sessions across the state through September.
Note: Applications for the Class of 2015 are due October 3, 2014.