Center offers Ready to Run Iowa in spring 2017

Since the results of the 2016 election were known, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics has received an influx of inquiries from women about its spring 2017 Ready to Run Iowa campaign training program.

In an effort to increase the number of women in elected and appointed political office, the Catt Center has offered the Ready to Run Iowa program every other year since 2007. This non-partisan program prepares women to run for elected office, serve in appointed office or become more involved in community leadership by teaching them about Iowa politics, fundraising, communicating with voters and working with the media.

The 2017 workshops will be held on Feb. 17, March 31 and April 28 in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Registration will open one month prior to each workshop date. All workshops will be held on Fridays with one workshop from 9 a.m. to noon and the second from 2 to 5 p.m. Each workshop is $20, which includes all materials, light refreshments and parking in the MU garage. People can register separately for as many workshops as they wish to attend.

Based on the results of the 2016 election on Nov. 8, work remains to be done to increase the representation of Iowa women at the local, state and national levels.

"The number of women serving in the 2017-2019 Iowa Legislature will decrease by one, and the number of women in the U.S. Congress will remain the same," said Kelly Winfrey, an assistant professor of journalism who coordinates Ready to Run Iowa for the Catt Center. "Women are underrepresented in every level of politics in Iowa and nationally, and the primary reason is that women simply do not run in as high of numbers as men."

Currently, seven women serve in the Iowa Senate and 27 in the Iowa House, making up 22.7% of the Legislature. This number is slightly lower than the national average of 24.4%, as reported by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Women make up 22.5% of state senates nationally but only 14% in Iowa. Iowa is slightly above the national average in women’s representation in state houses with 27% compared to 25.2% nationally. The next U.S. Congress remains the same with 104 seats held by women, comprising 21% of the U.S. Senate and 19% of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Iowa is the only state in the country that sets gender balance goals for boards and commissions at all levels of government. The Catt Center’s most recent study indicates a need for more women in these roles as women make up only 32.69% of county board members and 39.66% of municipal board members.

“The Ready to Run Iowa program is designed to address many of the reasons women may be hesitant to run, including feeling unqualified and unsure about how to get on the ballot and campaign,” said Winfrey, who serves as the coordinator of research and outreach for the Catt Center. “Ready to Run Iowa addresses all these issues by having campaign experts and women public officials share their experiences and provide specific advice to workshop participants. The workshops are also a great way to grow your political network and meet others who can help on your journey into politics.”

On Feb. 17, the workshops will focus on how to get started in Iowa politics and how to launch a campaign. The March 31 workshops will discuss fundraising, campaign messaging and working with the media. Strategies for communicating with voters through door-knocking, speeches, on camera and online will be covered April 28. For more information on the 2017 program, visit the Ready to Run Iowa website.

“The program is not just for women seeking elected office as workshop topics include getting appointed to state, county, and local boards and commissions, which is a great starting point for public service,” said Dianne Bystrom, Catt Center director. Also, Ready to Run Iowa has always been open to men who wish to attend. “Although the program addresses topics unique to women as they seek greater participation in the political process, it is open to anyone wishing to learn more."

The 2017 program will feature many new topics and new speakers.

“I want the experience to be new each year so even women who have attended in the past can benefit," Winfrey said. "This wouldn’t be possible without the guidance and assistance of our advisory board, which met in September to brainstorm.”

The Ready to Run Iowa Advisory Board consists of nine members with expertise in Iowa politics who provide input on the speakers, content and format for the workshops. Advisory Board members are: Amy Campbell, a partner at the Advocacy Cooperative; Gwen Ecklund, president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women; Blake Hanson, an attorney at Crawford and Mauro in Des Moines; Drew Kamp, director of Story County community outreach and government relations for the Ames Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Commission; Paula Martinez, labor leader and member of the Warren County Democrats Central Committee; Kellie Paschke, an attorney with Skinner and Paschke of Waukee, Iowa; Kim Reem, 4th vice president of the National Federation of Republican Women; Georgia Van Gundy, assistant vice president for government and community relations at the Principal Financial Group; and Andrea Woodard, public policy manager at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

The 2017 program is sponsored by the Ames Chamber of Commerce, ISU Women’s and Diversity Grants Program, the League of Women Voters of Ames and Story County, and Mary Jo and Richard Stanley of Muscatine, Iowa. Their sponsorships provide the funds necessary to keep registration costs low.

Since the Catt Center began offering Ready to Run Iowa in 2007, more than 265 women and men have participated in the program. The program has also proven successful as demonstrated by the 11 women who participated in Ready to Run Iowa and ran for county, state and national offices in 2016. Many other past participants serve in elected and appointed positions at the state, county and local levels.

The 2016 election included victories by several past participants. Megan Jones, who attended in 2009 and was a speaker in 2013, won reelection to the Iowa House of Representatives. Jones is a Republican representing District 2 and will begin her third term. Also winning reelection to the Iowa House was 2011 participant Sandy Salmon, a Republican representing District 63 who will begin her third term. Lauris Olson, running as a Democrat, was newly elected to the Story County Board of Supervisors for a four-year term. Olson attended Ready to Run Iowa in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. Past Ready to Run participants are encouraged to share their involvement in elected and appointed office with the Catt Center.

For more information, visit the Ready to Run Iowa website.

If you would like to be added to the Ready to Run Iowa mailing list, please email the Catt Center.