The election of President Donald Trump has brought about unprecedented levels of political engagement nationwide, and one place that has been especially evident is the number of women expressing an interest in running for elected office.
EMILY’s List, a national organization that helps elect pro-choice, Democratic women to local, state and federal office, has said the number of women reaching out to them for guidance has increased from a little over 900 in the 2016 election cycle to more than 16,000 since Trump was elected in November – an increase of more than 1,700 percent.
And Michigan is among states they are actively in engaged in, having so far endorsed former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer for governor and watching candidates they are “excited about,” in the 7th, 8th and 11th congressional districts, said Julie McClain Downey, national director of campaign communications.
While the state House has seen gradual increases in women elected to serve in recent elections, the state Senate has largely seen steep decreases. Downey said while research shows a multitude of reasons why women tend not to consider elected office – be it the local school board or Congress – perhaps one of the most overlooked is, “They’ve never been asked to consider it,” she said.
“So we’ve always made recruiting part of our efforts, but what’s exciting is so many people are reaching out to us,” Downey said. “Women reach out, and they may come from a place of, ‘we really don’t like what’s happening with Trump,’ but when we dig deeper, there’s one, if not more, issues they’re really passionate about.”
The organization does not yet have state-specific numbers because it keeps changing, Downey explained, which has been echoed on the national level as well. For example, the organization went from 15,000 women expressing an interest in what EMILY’s List has to offer to 16,000 in less than a month, she said.
“We’ve had interest in all 50 states. Nearly 50 percent of the women reaching out to us are under the age of 45, which we find very encouraging, because … that’s young as far as political careers,” Downey said. “We’re excited by that because it does lend itself to building up that pipeline, running when they’re young and continuing to be involved for years to come.”
Like other progressive organizations, there are questions and concerns about how the anti-Trump wave could be sustained, but for now, EMILY’s List is working diligently to help every woman who reaches out to them regardless of whether those women end up running for elected office.
That energy and the substantial increase in those seeking information about the organization has led to the creation of its Run to Win program, which provides more specific training to women on fundraising, how to speak to voters and setting expectations about elected office.
“The main areas we educate these women on are fundraising, organizing operation, how to knock on doors, how to tell your story to voters and how to interact with voters,” Downey said. “Sometimes the candidates just need a recalibration on those, but for the most part everyone is excited and receptive.”