Political Training Ground Gives Women a Jumpstart on Politics

Emerge Vermont, a political training program for Democratic women, graduated its inaugural class in July, as 17 participants, some holding children, dug into a barbecue dinner at a home in Rutland.

One of 14 states to join the national organization, Emerge Vermont launched its first training program in March, educating Vermont women on the nuts and bolts of a political career: public speaking, fundraising, networking, campaign strategy, media and ethical leadership. It turned out to be a diverse group; The women hailed from nine counties, ranged in age from 29 to 58, and included attorneys, consultants, executive directors and government employees.

The Emerge group met for seven days of training from March to July, convening a weekend a month in towns around the state. More than 30 speakers brought their expertise from a variety of professions and fields: covering the basics of campaigning, fundraising, media and messaging and approaches to ethical leadership and cultural competency.

The candidates consider Emerge key in laying the groundwork for a run for office, but perhaps just as important, they said, is the camaraderie and community they have forged.

The Vermont Legislature is 40 percent female, with a higher percentage of women than all states except Colorado. But there are far fewer women than men at the town level, on selectboards and in local governance, McCall said. And Vermont is one of four states that has never sent a woman to Washington, D.C.

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