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    Do Qualifications Matter?

    leslieA few columns back, I noted that it has been found that women who run for office often feel compelled to be better prepared and extremely well versed on issues than their male opponents. While this is a broad generalization, there are a number of studies that show that women frequently hold back from running for office until they feel that they are subject matter experts, even missing out on op­portunities to run for office if they do not feel fully prepared. As we look at the leading candidates from the two par­ties running for the office of the Presi­dent, this difference could not be more marked.

    There has rarely, if ever, been a can­didate as well prepared for the Presi­dency as Hillary Clinton. She has held positions in both the legislative and executive branches of govern­ment, and has excelled in the private sector (never mind time spent in the White House as First Lady/Advisor in Chief.) She has been in the public eye, taken well thought out positions (regardless of whether one agrees with them, they are unquestionably well researched, analyzed and can be im­plemented) and is beyond knowledge­able in both domestic and foreign af­fairs. She can cogently expound upon a myriad of public policy matters. Fi­nally, she has a very real understand­ing of what she will face once she steps into office. The recent Democratic de­bates put into sharp focus her mastery of issues currently facing the country.

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    Contrast her skills, experience and mastery with that of the current lead­ing opponents in the Republican Par­ty. While both Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson have excelled in their professions, neither has ever served in any governmental body, worked on public policy matters, developed foreign policy expertise or possess other various experience essential for holding the office of the Presidency. Neither one seems particularly con­cerned that they have no experience in public service that is a vastly dif­ferent world than the private sector. While success in the private sector demonstrates certain skill levels and understanding, serving in public of­fice requires other skills and focus.

    One must balance financial interests and goals with addressing service deliv­ery to all. There are other requirements tied to public benefits that are hard to quantify, but are essential for service: creation of equal opportunities, ad­dressing climate change and other en­vironmental issues, provision of health care for all, and, simply put, ensuring that those least fortunate are provid­ed with opportunities and care. Thus, there is a need to balance interests be­yond those that are purely economic.

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    There are also more traditional skills required for the Office of the Presi­dency: managing multiple depart­ments, divisions, staff, and more. I am concerned that Dr. Carson has not held a role where such skills are re­quired. There is no doubt that he is an outstanding surgeon, and a motivating speaker, but I am frankly baffled by the level of support someone with so few traditional qualifications for of­fice is receiving. This underscores the level of frustration held throughout the country with how things are moving.

    The divisions in our country are stark. People are frightened and want to resist change on the one hand, and simultaneously, push for “change” because they are frustrated. The re­sult of those positions should not be to support inexperience. Governing this country is not an easy task for any­one, never mind someone who would have to simply learn the nuances of government while on the job. Now, more than ever, we need experienced, respected leadership.

    For those of us concerned about our rights and about who will continue to lead this country, we must insist that attention be re-focused on quali­fications, skills and ability to handle all aspects of the job. People need to recognize that it is not a personality contest, nor is it appropriate to protest by supporting someone who has no experience, but that now, more than ever, we need a President who can continue to ensure that we are able to work with world leaders, to address the pressing issues facing us domes­tically, and to ensure that we don’t return to the morass we were in eight years ago. Experience matters! We should do what so many other coun­tries have already done; put an expe­rienced, effective, qualified woman into the top office. I am ready for Her.

    Leslie R. Katz is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the co-author of the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, has served on the SF Democratic County Central Committee (as Chair, and as a general member), and serves on the Cal­ifornia Democratic Party’s Executive Board. She is an attorney with a government law, policy and strategy practice, with a focus on emerging technologies.