A group that counsels Iowa women running for office plans to meet with female candidates who were on the 2016 ballot in Iowa, but lost.
“We have two post-election programs. The first one is for the women who won. To kind of give them an orientation, we invite current seated legislators and some lobbyists. The one we do for the women who lost, we will do that in March, and essentially the message is run again,” says Mary Ellen Miller, executive director of 50-50 in 2020.
The group’s name reflects the goal of “gender equity” — having half of the state’s lawmakers be women. Sixty-five Iowa women ran for state or federal office in 2016 — a record number.
“Most people that are currently elected have run and lost at least once,” Miller says. “That’s one of the messages we give women and women do take a loss very personally, so in one of our programs we offer them a mentor that stands by their side through the whole campaign because we know that there’s just that kind of gut reaction that women have to the negative campaigning, to the loss.”
Mary Rae Bragg, president of the League of Women Voters of Iowa, is a member of the 50-50 in 2020 board. She says talking to the women who’ve lost races is key.
“I think that’s the most important thing that we do is say: ‘Lick your wounds and doggone it, it wasn’t fair. But you know what? Get back in there,'” Bragg says.
Bragg attended the group’s first post-election session for nine women who’d lost.
“When we met together that morning, these were gals who said: ‘O.K. I’m here. Give me the coffee and just leave me alone’ kind of thing and you couldn’t blame them because it was very difficult,” Bragg says. “…By the end of that day, those same gals were sitting around saying: ‘You know, I’m probably know going to run again in two years, but I’m coming back because you know I’ve never been closer to my family.’ ‘I’ve was so proud of my kids.’ ‘I know more about government now that I thought I would ever know.’ They were so invigorated.”
Bragg and Miller made their comments during a recent appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.
Later in 2017, the 50-50 in 2020 group will launch its new “Step Up” program, to talk with women who are already holding office at the local level and encourage them to run for higher office. In addition, the group is starting chapters at Iowa colleges and universities to encourage young women to consider running for office at some point in their lives.