by Linda Berg, PAC Director
At a May 2-3 Victory 2000 training in Washington, D.C., Dr. Janet Canterbury, NOW Advisory Board Co-Chair, speaks to a group of 25 participants on analyzing electoral districts using her home of South Florida as an example. Photo by Lisa Bennett-Haigney.
Just a few months into NOW's Victory 2000 Campaign, we are happy to report several important wins. In the short time since the campaign began and before the first officially scheduled general election in Nov. 1998, we will welcome at least three strong feminists and NOW friends to seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The NOW Political Action Committees (PACs) are tallying these victories on our way to achieving the campaign goal of electing 2,000 women's rights candidates to all levels of political office by the year 2000.
In a smashing primary victory in Chicago, NOW activist Jan Schakowsky beat two well-funded opponents to succeed retiring and longtime NOW supporter Congressman Sidney Yates. Following the NOW model of political field organizing and ignoring the advice of conventional political consultants, Schakowsky created a field school and attracted volunteers from throughout the country. In return for intense, on-the-job campaign training, each field school volunteer was responsible for a geographic area of the district. NOW/ PAC's summer intern Jennifer Pence was one of the invaluable field school organizers credited with Schakowsky's win. Because the district is overwhelmingly Democratic, Schakowsky is expected to win the general election easily.
As a result of special elections, the number of women in Congress recently increased from 52 to 55. Representatives Lois Capps, Mary Bono and Barbara Lee all won special elections in California to fill open seats. Women now constitute 12.5 percent of the House and nine percent of the Senate. Although these gains are cause for celebration, we clearly have our work cut out for us. All three women must run again in the 1998 primary and general elections.
The most exciting news is that two out of three of these newly elected House members are feminists. Both Barbara Lee and Lois Capps have strongrelationships with the NOW PACs in their communities. And although Mary Bono will carry on much of her late husband, Sonny's, agenda, there are those in the progressive political community who believe that she will be more receptive than her husband to our concerns.
But this is only the beginning of our expected string of victories!
In the first half of 1998, NOW/PAC conducted four Victory 2000 political briefings. The aim of these briefings is to empower NOW activists with the tools to recruit and elect strong feminists who will run on our issues and protect women's rights. The sessions are also designed to encourage and prepare activists who may be interested in running for office themselves.
In fact, at publication time there are at least six former NOW state presidents and national board members running for state legislative office.
The first national briefing took place in Washington, D.C., on March 7-8 and attracted NOW members from all over the country. The second briefing was on March 29 in Southern California where representatives of four area chapters attended, the third was conducted in Walla Walla, Wash., on April 25 and the fourth was on May 2-3 in D.C.
Activists left the briefings ready to dive into campaign work and help elect more feminist candidates on our way to 2,000 in 2000. If you would like more information about the campaign and how you can help elect women's rights supporters, connect to our web site at http://www.now.org/pac/ or call the NOW Action Center at 202-331-0066, ext. 713.