Women in politics: Local group seeks recruits

August 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is little doubt Hillary Clinton has changed the landscape for women in politics. It is a goal one Bay Area group has been working toward for years.

London Breed rocked out at the convention. She is the executive director of the African American Art and Culture Complex in San Francisco's Western Addition and is a delegate for Barack Obama. She also is a graduate of Emerge, a program to help women get into politics.

"I'm London Breed from San Francisco and I just graduated in June," said Breed.

A couple of weeks ago she came back to an Emerge information meeting to encourage new recruits. Five years ago, we followed the first class on a tour of the state capitol. One weekend a month, for seven months, the trainees are schooled in public speaking, fund raising, and the art and science of campaigning. In five years, 140 women have gone through the training in California.

"We had 31 runs for office and 19 victories," said Andrea Dew Steele, co-founder of Emerge.

Steele says there is no question Hillary Clinton's run for the White House has been an inspiration.

"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it's got about 18 million cracks in it," Clinton said in her DNC speech.

However, women continue to face an uphill battle. ABC7's political analyst Bruce Cain says since 1992, the percentages of women in elected office have stalled.

"We don't quite understand why there aren't more women running. We suspect part of is the demands of family and running for office just aren't compatible for a lot of women," said Cain.

"Yes there are pockets where it's not working, but I think overall women are really stepping up to the plate and I think the glass ceiling, I believe, is being shattered as we speak," said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

Breed is not running for office, but she does want funding for her arts center.

"All the people with all the money and all the resources are right here, out at this convention," said Breed.

The political skills she honed in Emerge are serving her, along with some indirect help from another woman in politics.

It is said all politics is local, but when you come from the district represented by the Speaker of the House, maybe that makes a difference.


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