By Kim Huynh
Don’t let their size fool you. While membership in this Democratic club ranges from 15 to 30 dues-paying members, the Fem Dems of Sacramento are a small but agile crew, locally based, and determined with a clear plan to make a difference on the ground.
“We have always taken a different approach than traditional Democratic clubs,” says Kelly Rivas, past president. “As a club we try to be innovative in our community engagement and really work to motivate young women—and really women of any age—to run for office.”
From candidate endorsements and election bootcamps to community discussions on media topics such as why women still can’t have it all, the Fem Dems cover political, educational and community-building activities.
The group supports inclusion, equality and diversity within the Democratic Party and the community at large with diversity being a term the organization stresses: “When I say diversity I don’t just mean in terms of ethnicity, but also age, profession, socioeconomic, gender and any myriad of self-identities we use,” Rivas clarifies. Fem Dems aims to recruit members and engage citizens from outside the usual political circles—for example, people working in the food & service industry, as homemakers, and in blue collar and white collar work. “Our goal is to engage folks who don’t normally participate in politics or for whatever reason feel they don’t have a place, say, or interest in politics,” says Rivas.
The Fem Dems consist of both a Democratic club and a separate PAC, with the club endorsing candidates through a democratic process and then making recommendations to the PAC. True to its commitment to inclusiveness, the organization does not limit its candidate endorsements to women—male candidates can be endorsed as well, provided they prove their commitment and support for the club’s mission.
In 2012, the Fem Dems club was one of only two Democratic clubs in the region to endorse Steve Hansen, the first openly gay city council member in Sacramento. While the organization tends to focus on local races, past successful endorsements also include Ami Bera, now a Member of Congress representing California’s 7th Congressional District, and Rebecca Sandoval, president of the Twin Rivers Unified School District.
To encourage more women to run for office, the Fem Dems held its first candidate training bootcamp in 2011, with a panel presentation on essential topics such as grassroots organizing, messaging and campaign finance laws. Several of the course’s graduates went on to run for and win elected office, one stating that the training had helped her to find her voice.
For more information, visit the website at www.femdems.org.