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    Do Ask Do Tell

    zoeOn November 4, several women won local elections. Libby Schaaf will become the next Mayor of Oakland. San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen won re-election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Emily Murase retained her seat on the Board of Education. Three new women won seats on the City College Board of Trustees—Thea Selby, Amy Bacharach and Brigette Davilla. What do they hold in common? They are all graduates of the Emerge California training program for Democratic women.

    Why do we need Emerge and programs like it? Even with these important victories, women lag woefully behind when it comes to elected office, surprisingly even in “enlightened” San Francisco. The most powerful citywide officers—Mayor, City Attorney, District Attorney, Treasurer, Sheriff, Public Defender—are all men. Our city’s three representatives in Sacramento—Mark Leno, Phil Ting and now David Chiu— are all men. And seven of our eleven Supervisors? Men. Detecting a theme here?

    zoe2Research has shown that when women run, they win. So it is not as much an issue of discrimination at the ballot box as it is a deficit in feeding the political pipeline with qualified women. I know I myself did not seriously consider going through the Emerge CA program until friends and colleagues encouraged me to run for office. As a result, I was able to win election to the Democratic County Central Committee in 2012. I credit my Emerge CA training, as well as the encouragement and support (emotional and financial) of friends, family and colleagues.

    zoeSo my call to action to you is to talk to a woman you’d like to see in office and ask her to run. It could be your sister, your mother, your co-worker, or your best friend. We need to hear more women’s voices in our city’s political discourse. Be persistent. And when they do decide to run, be there for them.

    “San Francisco Bay Times” columnist Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, as a San Francisco Library Commissioner, and as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club. She is an alumna of the Emerge CA Class of 2010.