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Training Women To Run For Office

Kamala Shugar of Emerge Oregon chats with Sen. Jeff Merkley. Photo: Emerge Oregon.

Women represent only 17 percent of Congress, and only one member of the Oregon delegation, Suzanne Bonamici, is a woman. Only 23 percent of elected officials statewide in Oregon are female. These are some of the reasons that Kamala Shugar is encouraging people to come support Emerge Oregon at its May 9 fundraiser. 

Shugar is a board member of Emerge Oregon, an organization that encourages and trains Democratic women to run for office She says that many women are either waiting to be asked to run for office, or they don’t think they are qualified. Emerge seeks to change that through its seven-month training program. Thursday’s event will introduce Eugene to two local graduates from this year’s class: Dawn Lesley and Evangelina Sundgrenz.

The Emerge program gives women a toolbox and skills for campaigning for office or even know-how on gaining office through a special election or an open seat appointment, Shugar says. It helps women become “familiar with what I think are protected secrets in some ways of the political process and become aware of all opportunities that are out there.” 

Women from Emerge run for everything from school board seats to city council and legislative positions, she says. Emerge graduates include Oregon House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, Jennifer Geller of the 4J School Board, Springfield City Councilor Sheri Moore and Eugene City Councilor Claire Syrett, to name only a few.

Emerge seeks to “deepen the bench of women who are ready and trained to run,” Shugar says. Fifty-four percent of Emerge grads have run for office and 81 percent of those have won. 

The fundraiser is also an awareness raiser. Shugar says that not only does she hope people will come ready to donate to the program but also to find out about it for themselves or for a friend. Applications for Emerge are due in November or December and the program starts in January or February. Shugar says her particular goal is to recruit women from rural areas. 

 The Emerge Oregon Eugene reception is at 5:30 pm Thursday, May 9, at Davis Restaurant, 94 W. Broadway. Tickets start at $50 and more information in the event is at http://wkly.ws/1gy and http://emergeor.org. — Camilla Mortensen