As I’m so fond of saying, that was the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on in quite some time. I truly enjoyed and am grateful for the opportunity to be a presenter at last Saturday’s seminar, How to Run for Office: A Woman’s Focus. Per the title’s clear stipulation, the Elgin YWCA, in league with the local League of Women Voters, really know how to put on an event.
For the incomprehensibly low price of forty bucks, ($35 for YWCA members), not only did you get lunch, but attendees got to listen to a slew of savvy speakers provide the kind of political lessons that some candidates take two or three losses to learn. It had to be one of the best deals on the bleepin’ planet.
The day started with Elgin City Clerk Kim Dewis, former Elgin City Clerk Loni Mecum and former Bartlett City Clerk Linda Gallien talking about the legal requirements and paperwork necessary to run for local office. Though the filing process isn’t all that difficult, it’s amazing how many candidates get booted from the ballot their first time out. To wit, Gail Borden Trustee Beth Kruger added her insights on how to handle petition challenges.
Then it was on to creating and crafting your message and then applying it to build the kind of coalition that will put you over the electoral top. And I have to say that Elgin City Councilman Rich Dunne and Dundee Township Supervisor Sue Harney did a phenomenal job of breaking that process down into very simple and doable steps.
Sometimes all it takes to win a local election is getting your fellow church members to vote for you!
U-46 School Board member Amy Kerber was also a part of that panel and I particularly loved her presentation because so few folks understand the vast limitations of local government. Regardless of what a new candidate might think, you’re not gonna just waltz onto a local board and “change everything!”
The only way Bruce Rauner is going to “shake up Springfield” is if his campaign team managed to develop a nuclear device.
Not only does it take a majority vote for any governmental initiative to become a reality, but school boards are saddled with all sorts of state mandates – funded and unfunded – that often force board members to vote a certain way. Amy reminded participants that school boards can’t do anything about that assistant principal you don’t like; the only person they can hire or fire is the Superintendent!
The next group, Ms. Harney, Ms. Kruger, State Rep Anna Moeller, and yours truly, discussed exactly how to get your voters to the polls from the placement of yard signs right on up to the arduous task of knocking on the right doors. We covered that prospect from the perspectives of running for local office or trying to get your referendum passed.
The great thing about that section was the sage inside advice offered by political veterans Sue and Anna, both of whom have won elections. I particularly enjoyed the combination of Sue’s boundless political optimism balanced by Anna’s practical take on what the process truly entails. Running for office isn’t for sissies! You have to be willing to spend the time on the street and take a hit or two before you’re done.
Sadly, I had to leave shortly after that, but Elgin Area LWV President Sigi Psimenos discussed the status of women in politics while former State Rep Ruth Munson and Kane County Board Member Cristina Castro talked about the most effective local fundraising techniques.
And while it was certainly worthwhile to stand in front of that room full of eager faces, when you consider all the folks who regularly complain about local politics and the vast wisdom dispensed at a $40 seminar, there should’ve been over 300 Kane Countians in attendance – all eager to throw their hat in the ring!
The YWCA and LWV do this every other year and I would heartily encourage anyone who harbors any political intent – man or woman – to attend the next one. Who knows! Nine of the women who participated in the 2012 event ran for office and five of them won! I can’t wait to see how well this group does.
Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with gubernatorial, congressional and countywide candidates who, despite multiple losses, still don’t grasp the basic concepts so clearly and convincingly presented at this seminar. Perhaps if Mr. Rauner had attended the last one he might actually have a November shot!