Women-centric organization working to fight the gender gap in government

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November 19, 2013 // UPDATED 8:27 pm - November 19, 2013
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

When Betsy Hodges is sworn in at City Hall in early January, she will become the 47th mayor of Minneapolis and the second women in the city’s history to hold the office.

Across Minnesota, only about 15 percent of the cities are led by women mayors, said Meagan Bachmayer, director of marketing and development for womenwinning — the state’s only nonpartisan, pro-choice women’s organization with federal and state PACs.

It has raised more than $1 million for more than 2,000 women’s campaigns since launching in 1982.

The organization has supported Hodges’ political career since she first ran for City Council in 2005 and the mayor-elect credited womenwinning with being a key force in her mayoral campaign.

“Earning the support of womenwinning early in my campaign made a huge difference in this race. I knew that I had hundreds of women both across Minneapolis and across Minnesota standing with me to fight for this seat,” Hodges said.

The organization also recruited and supported successful City Council campaigns for Linea Palmisano (13th Ward) and Alondra Cano (9th Ward).

Overall, womenwinning endorsed 38 women running for office this year and 29 of those candidates (76 percent) won their respective races. The list includes three mayoral candidates, 19 for City Council, 10 for School Board, five for Park Board and 1 for the Board of Estimate and Taxation.

Besides helping Hodges’ campaign, the organization supported the mayoral campaigns of Nora Slawik in Maplewood and Del Rae Williams in Moorhead. Both won their races.

Bachmayer said the organization reaches out to women who are active in their communities and get singled out by other community leaders as good people to approach about running for office.

Sometimes women need the extra nudge, she said, because they don’t always think of themselves as strong candidates and reflect on all the assets they could bring to a job in public service. They tend to bring a collaborative style to government that makes them effective leaders.

“We put a mirror in front of their face,” Bachmayer said.

Once a candidate has been recruited by womenwinning, the organization helps provide tips on coming up with a campaign plan, provides funds at the maximum campaign finance limit and holds fundraisers.

The organization has more than 10,000 members.