Opinion

More teamwork, sisterhood necessary to turn women candidates into women officeholders

By August 17, 2018 No Comments

With a record number of women running for office this year and scores more getting involved in politics for the first time, organizations like Emerge, Emily’s List, and She Should Run are subsequently receiving more requests for training and professional assistance.

We are at a crossroads with the number of organizations that claim to support women. There are those like the aforementioned Emily’s List that won’t support a woman running for office if she is challenging an incumbent man. Then there are those like Women for the Future of Pittsburgh that puts its neck on the line to support women, even if that means going up against the establishment.

I’ve long believed in the sisterhood that comes along with getting women elected. I look at the women who encouraged me to run for the first time in 2012 and have made a concerted effort to get women elected up and down the ballot ever since; whether that was by using my pocketbook or by sharing the knowledge that I have gained on the campaign trail.

It’s why I joined the board of directors for Represent in 2016, to encourage and raise money for women candidates across Pennsylvania. It’s why after I left the race for lieutenant governor, I immediately joined Sara Innamorato’s campaign for state representative; its why I became a member of the board of directors for Women for the Future of Pittsburgh.

I want women to win.

We need them. We need that perspective at all levels of government.

I’ve never been afraid to kick in the doors of the ugly side of politics; my hope is that shedding light on the system will make it better. And if we work hard enough, we can change the system in which we are operating. But one lesson that I have learned over the last six years is that not all women believe in that sisterhood. In fact, sometimes what is standing in the way of advancing women in elected office is other women.

It may be why we saw startling exit poll numbers of women who said they voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 — even with his rhetoric around punishing women for abortions to bragging about sexually assaulting women — 42  percent of women voted for him.

The sisterhood mentality also has a long way to go here in Pittsburgh.

Emerge Pennsylvania asked me to be a  “celebrity bartender” for an upcoming fundraiser  — I agreed right away — any way that I can contribute to the effort to help get women elected, I am happy to. I even bought my early-bird ticket and then waited until the promotional materials came out so that I could share the event on my social media platforms.

Unfortunately, if you’ve now seen such promotional material — you will no longer see my name as one of the folks behind the bar. I received a phone call from an official of Emerge who explained that Gisele Fetterman, also a celebrity bartender, didn’t want to be involved if I was. I ran against Gisele’s husband John in the lieutenant governor’s  race and spoke with truth to the contradictions between his rhetoric and his reality.

I was not going to allow this unpleasantness to overshadow the greater good of electing more women. And I certainly didn’t want to cause any stress on those Board members organizing the Emerge event. I told them they could remove my name . . . and I am cool with that.

What I am not cool with though is the mentality that we all can’t work together towards a common goal.

When I served in Iraq it didn’t matter your political affiliation, your gender, the color of your skin — we had a common goal and we worked like hell to achieve it — and we did.

When all women finally get to that same place and start actively working like hell towards that common goal of getting us elected to office — maybe we will start to see greater numbers actually taking the oath of office across the nation; not just running.

So if you are considering running for office, if you want to volunteer on a campaign, if you want to learn to be a finance director or campaign manager I hope to see you on August 18th at Emerge Pennsylvania’s “celebrity” bartender event at 11 Stanwix St. from  4-6pm. Early bird tickets are $25.

That’s right. I will be there and I hope to see you there, too. The mission is just too big.

Aryanna Berringer is the Pittsburgh Current’s Political columnist. Reach her at Aryanna@pittsburghcurrent.com

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