History of Ready To Run® Iowa

In 1998, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University established Ready to Run®: Campaign Training for Women to recruit and train women in New Jersey to run for all levels of office. Since its inception, more than 2,500 women have attended Ready to Run® New Jersey.

In 2007, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University was invited to join the Ready to Run® National Training Network. Some 45 participants attended Ready to Run® Iowa on June 1, 2007. Six participants – three Democrats and three Republicans – ran as challengers for the Iowa Legislature in 2008, and one won her race. Other participants ran for local office, including mayor; sought appointment to local, county and state boards and commissions; or became involved with a political party and/or campaign.

In 2009, approximately 55 people – including women and men; Democrats, Republicans and Independents; college students; Iowans and residents of Illinois and Wisconsin – attended Ready to Run Iowa on April 3. Of these participants, nine ran in 2009 or 2010 for elected office, including city council, mayor, county board of supervisors, county attorney and the state legislature. Others pursued appointment to local, county or state boards or commissions; became more active in a political party, including serving as county chair; or worked on a political campaign.

In 2011, some 60 people attended Ready to Run Iowa on June 10. This workshop included sessions on such previously successful topics as developing a campaign plan, fundraising, developing your message, interacting with the media, and navigating the party system. It also included additional emphasis on getting appointed to boards and commissions and new topic sessions on advocating an issue and internet strategies for candidate and issue campaigns. Of these participants, eight ran for local or state elected office in 2011 or 2012. Six of these individuals ran in the 2012 primary for the Iowa Legislature. Some participants were also appointed to city and state boards and commissions, while others went on to serve in leadership positions within various community and political organizations at the campus, city, state, and national levels.

In 2013, the program transitioned from a one-day workshop to a series of six monthly workshops held January through June. This change in formatting provided more than 21 hours of instruction, which ultimately tripled the amount of training received through the Ready to Run Iowa program. Through the course of the six workshops, 66 individuals from throughout the state of Iowa participated in the series.

In 2015, the program kept with the series of six workshops from 2013, but hosted two workshops per day on Feb. 13, March 13 and April 24. This cut down on travel for participants coming from all corners of the state of Iowa. The social media and Internet workshops were also expanded this year since both topics are such big tools in current campaigns. More than 70 participants from 20 different counties attended the workshops.

In 2017, the program again offered six workshops over three days. A record 172 participants from across the state attended at least one of the six workshops, which were moved off campus to accommodate the large number of participants. Thanks to a grant from ISU Women’s and Diversity Grants Program and the generosity of several sponsors, a number of scholarships were provided to individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in politics, specifically women who are students and/or ethnic or racial minorities.

In 2019, six workshops were again offered over three days in February, March and April. After the recording-breaking turnout in 2017, attendance for the 2019 was lower, with 37 participants attending at least one of the workshops.

In 2021, the workshops were held virtually via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy women from across the state and a few locations outside of Iowa attended at least one of the workshops, which included a session in which four Iowa State students participating in the center’s Vertically Integrated Research Project shared preliminary findings from their original research examining gender dynamics in political recruitment, ambition and campaigns in Iowa.

Due to the success of the 2021 virtual workshops, the first four workshops in 2023 were again held virtually, with the last two workshops held in person at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens. Forty-one participants attended at least one of the workshops or watched recordings of the presentations from the virtual workshops, with most of the participants attending four or more of the workshops.

Evaluations of the program by participants from across the years have been positive. Comments about the overall workshop included: “these workshops are outstanding,” “speakers were great,” “thoughtful, educational and entertaining event,” “staff was very helpful,” “loved being able to attend virtually” and “keep up the great work!” Comments about the individual workshop sessions include:

  • “Wow! Sensational! Personal stories made it REAL and made it seem we all have the ability to run.”
  • “Great info! Informative!”
  • “Great variety of real-life stories from all areas of service. Good mix of Republicans and Democrats.”
  • “Diverse and helpful suggestions.”
  • “It was fantastic! I learned so much about the process and preparation that goes into a campaign.”
  • “This was insightful and very interesting.”
  • “Very helpful to hear from the three speakers and get their perspectives on boards and commissions.”

Based on the success of the Ready to Run Iowa workshops and the state’s below average performance in electing women to state and national office, the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics is committed to offering this program every other year.