Hot Air: Rising, Running

All the big shot women in town gathered late yesterday afternoon in Bloomington’s city council chambers. As far as I’m concerned, that means all the big shots in town — period.

Oh, and Mayor John Hamilton was there, too.

The event: the kickoff for our town’s local chapter of Rise to Run, a nationwide effort to get more women in public office.

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The new Democratic mantra seems to be We’re at the tail end of a really weird era in politics. That is, the conservative Republican, Fox News, Moral Majority-sires-the-Tea-Party, here-comes-Kid-Rock era. Are they whistling past the graveyard? I dunno. I only know the Dems have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, and they still don’t control the White House, the US House, or the US Senate. And don’t get me started on the nation’s statehouses or governor’s mansions.

In any case, I’ve heard a few 2018 Dem candidates repeat this mantra already. The idea being, Change is in the air and who’s going to lead it? May as well be the women, said the gang assembled in the stately confines Sunday afternoon.

Give Regina Moore and Rachel Guglielmo, co-bosses of B-town’s newborn R-to-R chapter, credit — they sure know how to call out the troops. Some fifty women — and a man or two — got together to hear an all-star cast talk about getting females on the ballot. It ain’t easy, they all concluded, so we’ll have to help each other get over the hump.

Moore, the former city clerk, solidified her status as my fave retired pol by pointing out there’d be homemade cannoli at the buffet table after the proceedings.

But first, business. Mayor Hamilton gave the welcoming speech. “This is a hard time, politically,” he said, and ain’t it the truth. He then pointed out a fact that we in this holy land don’t like to think about — it hasn’t even been a full hundred years since women herein were granted the right to vote. In fact, I might add, America was among the last major industrialized nations in the world to grant its females suffrage. Now give America credit: we honor our traditions. We continue to bring up the rear re: social reforms; we’re now among the last industrialized nations on Earth to grant guaranteed health care to our citizens.

Moore took the podium to introduce the keynote speaker, Attica Scott, a member of the Kentucky state legislature. Moore called Scott a “kick ass speaker,” and so she was. Scott told this tale: Years ago she and four pals sat around a kitchen table and asked each other which one among them was best suited to run for office; the five settled on her.

Scott ran for a school board seat and lost. The next day, she recalled, her pastor dropped by and told her, “It’s time to get to work!” And so, the very next year, she ran to fill a vacant Louisville city council seat and won. She then won reelection but her third run for the office was not a charm — she was defeated. The lesson, Scott stressed, was it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, “You keep on doing good work.” She did so and this year was rewarded by copping a seat in the Frankfort House. She’s the first woman of color in that august body in 20 years, a distinction she characterized as unacceptable.

“It’s because of women in my life,” she said, “particularly young women who worked on my campaign, that I’m here right now.”

To women thinking of running for office, Scott offered this advice: “Find your mentors right now.” And this: “Have one anothers’ backs.” Finally: “Please bring other women along with you.”

Scott then joined a panel of speakers offering advice and huzzahs to the young, aspiring office-holders in the audience. The panel was led by Monroe County Commissioner Julie Thomas and included:

Man (and Woman), that’s an all-star cast. Proof women can thrive politically. Of course, there’s a caveat. Scott reps the Louisville area and the rest of the panel’s pols rep our island of blue in an ocean of red. Both locales hype their contrary orientation despite being surrounded by…, well, a body politic that Hamilton and other Dems swear (and hope) is becoming a minority.

Is this the dawn of a new political age in America? Search me. All I know is there was a lot of hope in council chambers yesterday and hope is the first step.


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