‘Boot Camp’ Teaches Women How to Run for Political Office

By Kate Giammarise
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Nurse practitioner Suzanne Colilla has thought about running for public office.

“I think it’s important for nurses who are bedside experts to have a seat at the table when we talk about health policy issues,” she said.

But trying to win a local election raises a host of questions: How much money do you need to raise? How do you get the support of your party in the primary? How do you run a campaign if you’ve never done it before?

Ms. Colilla and about 40 other women — and a handful of men — spent a recent snowy Saturday in a Chatham University conference room learning just that.

“Ready to Run” is a campaign school aimed at women, a full-day boot camp complete with tips from women elected officials, advice on navigating local party systems, lessons on public speaking and an outline on the basics of fundraising and planning a campaign — plus a big dose of pep talks and confidence-building.

The training is sponsored by Chatham’s Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.

Jennifer Stergion, an attorney from Buffalo, N.Y., said the event attracted her because it is non-partisan and focuses on the practical aspects of a campaign.

Other campaign tutorial events she had considered attending in the past were more focused on helping candidates who, for example, were committed to an anti-abortion or abortion rights position.

“This is more of a nuts-and-bolts event and less policy-driven,” Ms. Stergion said.

Indeed, apart from a brief but spirited disagreement between Republican and Democratic panelists over the campaign of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the day — while filled with talk of politics — was remarkably issue-neutral. Discussions focused on everything from what to expect in a campaign to nitty-gritty details such as how to best speak to a television camera and how to split your time between fundraising and meeting with voters.

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