Meeting Minutes from inSPIRE Social on July 22, 2006  

We had our fifth social event of 2006 at Cathy and Linda s house. We had a nice turnout for a lovely July Saturday evening, with close to twenty people attending. Special thanks to Linda and Cathy for being so willing to host! And thanks to all other attendees for bringing such a great array of potluck dishes!

Keynote Speaker, Cathy Allen, President / Owner of The Connections Group, Inc
Cathy Allen was not only willing to be our keynote speaker but also to host our event! Cathy has spent the past twenty years working to elect women and young people to public office. Cathy spoke of her approach to developing campaign strategies, targeting, message development and media relations. The Connections Group clients include over 500 successful political campaigns. In 2000, Cathy co-founded the Center for Women and Democracy at the University of Washington. This non-profit center recruits, trains, and supports women in developing strong leadership in their careers. In addition, Cathy has worked for the past eight years consulting for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, recently returning from training Muslim women to run in Jordan and Morocco. In both cases, women made history by being elected to office in the largest numbers ever for these Arab countries.

Cathy has authored two books on campaigning and winning, including Taking Back Politics: An Insider's Guide to Winning

A board member of the American Association of Political Consultants, Allen is the former Vice-President of the National Women s Political Caucus. She is a frequent political commentator on national TV and radio affiliates, appearing weekly on KING 5 s (NBC Seattle-affiliate) Up Front with Robert Mack.

Cathy has recently returned from Kuwait. Last month, Kuwait held their first elections in which women were allowed to vote. Also for the first time, women were allowed to run for office. Of the approximately 300 candidates running for office in Kuwait, 28 were women. The government announcement that women would be allowed to run for office came late, thus women candidates were only given thirty days to campaign, resulting in their only receiving 3% of the vote. No women won their races though some races were very close. However, 35% of eligible women voted as compared to only 30% of eligible men voting!

Cathy has worked on campaigns in many other Arabic countries, including Jordon, Morocco, Lebanon and others. Middle Eastern women are craving the skills needed to win elections, and although Cathy doesn t speak Arabic, she is able to train them with these skills. Cathy s and The Connections Group s approach to campaigning involves boiling down a candidates goals and objectives in the campaign to one clear message, then getting this message out to the right people, many times, in a variety of ways in a cost effective manner.

Cathy expanded on her approach to her work. Candidates come to Cathy because she understands how to win elections. Cathy typically works for women candidates, but not exclusively she also has many men as candidates. Cathy s personal guideline in selecting clients is to only work for the best candidate in the race. Cathy would never work for a candidate that she herself would not vote for. For women candidates, it s especially critical that they campaign well, for they are typically scrutinized much closer than men and if a woman candidate messes up, all women tend to suffer the consequences. When assessing possible clients it is not uncommon that Cathy will reject working for a client or even will advise a potential candidate to not run if Cathy believes that they aren t the best candidate in the race. And Cathy won t accept a candidate that is not a pleasure to work with, or a candidate that is disrespectful to her staff. The campaign must be a positive and holistic experience!

Cathy mentioned a couple demographic trends in regards to voting. First, swing races tend to be decided by 50 to 70 year old women. Second, although the fastest growing demographic are young adults between 18 and 34, less than 17% of them tend to vote and when they do vote they tend to copy their parents voting pattern. Statistics such as these are important to understanding who a candidate s critical audience is as well as how to craft the key message of a campaign.

Cathy next focused her discussion on women in politics. Women candidates in Washington State have done exceptionally well in comparison to other parts of the country. Many of our state s highest elected offices, including both of our Federal Senators as well as our Governor are women. Cathy believes that Governor Christine Gregoire is one of the best in the country. Five out of nine of Washington s Supreme Count Justices are women. More women are appointed to top offices in Washington State than in any other state in the country.

Cathy asked our inSPIRE group the questions Why does this matter and why are women being elected? . In the following discussion, many reasons were mentioned. Common views in our society among voters include that communities improve with women involved with policy issues. Women are frequently viewed as having more integrity than men, as well as being more cooperative. Women tend to view people over profits and put more value on issues of real people vs a small but powerful majority. Women are commonly viewed as valuing humanity over their own egos and of representing a higher order of what the masses, the bulk of the community, really want. Thus women tend to represent people that may not be in the majority and do better at building coalitions and to build inclusion. Finally, women tend to ask questions that real people will ask and more frequently reject the status quo . The top four issues normally viewed as strong issues for women are education, healthcare, housing and the environment.

In politics, men are not the biggest problem keeping women from being successful. Women s biggest problem is their own lack of confidence! Trends show that more and more, men are voting for women candidates. In some races, women candidates have a more difficult time with women voters. An example of this is reflected in polling regarding the potential run for President by Hilary Clinton. Of the polled Democrat voters, two thirds of those polled that indicated a problem with Hilary were women. This is an example of how a woman candidate will not necessarily win the women vote.

In the Seattle area, we tend to be demanding on our politicians. This strong focus on our politicians can enhance the benefits many perceive that women will bring to office including strong morals, high integrity, understanding the connections between issues and challenging the status quo. But this strong critical assessment of political candidates also can work against women candidates. Certain critical views tend to be held by the general public concerning women. These include the view that women can t make decisions, but instead will want to keep meeting and discussing rather than deciding. Also a common view is that women can t cut the hard deal needed to benefit the district. This is in contrast to a common view of a tough guy , in that he may be a scoundrel, but he s our scoundrel and will bring home the bacon for us . It s uncommon for a woman to be viewed as a tough gal . Women are commonly viewed as too interested in details to see the big picture, as well as too emotional. And finally, many voters are concerned with women candidates because they fear they may choose to have a family, thus will be more focused on being a Mom than on doing the job required by their office.

Certain issues are commonly considered as negative for women. These include war, because a woman won t pull the trigger when necessary. Women tend to be considered soft on crime and public safety. Women tend to be considered weak on transportation issues. And, due to the general conception that women are weak at math women tend to be viewed as poor at budgets.

Cathy stressed that many women are capable of being great elected officials and she is always looking for more women as candidates. But, again, Cathy and The Connections Group also have many men as clients, and some of Cathy s all-time favorite candidates have been men.

Our discussion next delved into the 2008 Presidential election. Cathy had recently spent an hour chatting with a former colleague of hers who is now the Chief of Staff of Barack Obama, the US Senator from Illinois whom Cathy considers the most exciting Democrat on the horizon. Will Obama make a run at President in 2008? He s indicated he won t jump in the race until Hilary Clinton officially announces that she s not running.

We then discussed Hilary Clinton in some depth. It s pretty clear most of us had fairly strong opinions about Hilary s chances to win as well as her ability as a potential President. Cathy indicated she believed that, of all of the potential candidates out there from both parties, Hilary would make the best President. Many of us agreed, but voiced concerns about Hilary s chances to get elected. The Republican slim machine has had Hilary in their sights for so long, and has done such a complete job of negative labeling Hilary that many don t think she can win. But Cathy pointed out some very key political advantages that Hilary would bring to the race. First off, Hilary has raised more money than any other candidate, which is a very big deal. Hilary has strong contacts in all fifty states, I.E. a full, country-wide network. Also, Hilary has the list of all the people in the country that have worked on a Presidential campaign in the past. Hilary obviously understands politics, and is focused on the right issues for a successful campaign. Hilary has a solid, competent political team. She is a seated United States Senator. And Hilary has an advantage that no other candidate can bring in that Hilary brings Bill, and Bill Clinton, after six years of Bush and Cheney, is now one of the most favorably viewed people in the world.

But Hilary also brings some negatives to the campaign trail. As mentioned above, Hilary has been labeled with a negative stereotype over the past dozen years that will be difficult to overcome. From this, many quickly label Hilary as a bitch or other nasty name. Many voters, especially women voters are still angry at Hilary for tolerating Bill s behavior in the Monica Lewinski scandal. Cathy believes that Hilary has a great political mind and is a great reader of the political winds. Cathy stressed that Hilary will not shy from a fight, but that she personally believes at this time that Hilary won t run for President because all the elements involved, when added, indicate Hilary may not believe she can win.

Who s on the short list of Democrat contenders? Besides Hilary and Obama, the list includes John Edwards (currently the front runner in Washington State and has raised the most money in our state), John Kerry again (who s currently not doing much), Mark Warner, the former Governor of Virginia, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Al Gore. Cathy believes that Gore is definitely running for President. Recently when Cathy was participating at a Leadership forum, a vote was taken among the participants as to would be the next President. Two thirds voted John McCain and one third Al Gore. At a recent meeting in Washington DC for Democratic Women s Political Consultants, meeting with Howard Dean, many voiced strong support for Gore. Gore s advantages include, besides the popular movie An Inconvenient Truth , his ability to raise money, the fact that many believe that he should have won the Presidency in 2000 (or did!), his strong, new environmentalism and the fact that he really isn t nearly as stilted as he comes across.

On the Republican side, the top four candidates are McCain, Virginia Senator George Allen, Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, and Newt Gingrich honest! McCain is the definite front-runner. Many of the Christian Conservatives don t love him, but will vote for him if he can win. Plus McCain has been making strong overtures to the far-right. McCain has a great personal story that sells well in America. And importantly, McCain has a strong love affair going with the Press. The Press loves him! The Bush people, including Karl Rove, are behind George Allen. Bill Frist is floundering. And believe it or not, Newt Gingrich has a lot of support in the party. Asked about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cathy indicated Rice was extremely dangerous at all speeds!

Cathy was asked about the recent Republican drive towards solidarity and avoiding primary battles to build strength and save campaign money. Cathy said there would definitely be both a Republican and Democrat primary, and they both could turn into blood baths. Cathy promised that she will do all in her power to help elect whoever is the Democrat nominee for President.

In the US Congress, Cathy predicted that Democrats will win 17 additional seats and gain the majority of the US House, but will remain 3 seats down in the US Senate. Cathy predicted Cantwell will win in a knockout, mainly because of Bush s low popularity in Washington State. Cantwell also has a lot of money to spend on the campaign, and her opponent Mike McGavick, although a pretty good guy, is not a great candidate and if elected would likely become a puppet of the Republican machine.

Regarding other local elections, Cathy predicted Darcy Burner won t be able to defeat the Green River Hero Dave Reichert for Congress in the 8th District. However, Democrats should pick up two more seats in the State House and one more seat in the State Senate. Asked about inSPIRE member Eric Oemig s campaign for State Senator in the 45th, Cathy indicated that lack of name recognition could hurt Eric and that winning his campaign will be difficult. When informed of the recent poll in the district regarding Eric and his opponent Toby Nixon, and Eric s favorable showing in this poll, Cathy agreed that these were great results and that again, our state s displeasure with the Bush Administration will persuade many voters to vote Democrat.

Asked about Patty Murray s and Maria Cantwell s performance as Senators as well as their styles, Cathy raved about Murray s strengths and successes. Murray is one of the hardest working people in the Senate. She knows how to reach compromises and solve problems, and is tough but compassionate. Cantwell is a tough and strong Senator, but can be tough to work with as a staff member.

Our questions and answers session lasted about an hour. We covered our concerns with voter fraud and new voting machines. Cathy believes that electronic voting is good and favors a paper-trail , but doesn t believe it is absolutely necessary, although it would make the process more open have it better perceived as fair. She believes that all-mail voting will lead to greater vote-counting integrity. She believes our elections are currently free and fair, and that the problems experienced with the ultra-close gubernatorial election in Washington State are now solved. She emphasized how hard those involved have worked to solve those problems here in our state and that the Press has given them a bad rap.

Cathy stated that she can t vouch for the Florida 2000 election or the Ohio 2004 election, but in general that it s not the voting system that s failing but rather it s the Republican tactic and mantra of challenge every vote you can that is hindering citizens from voting.

Cathy also noted that she s committed to improving our country by working with the political process. As a proud American, she s become embarrassed by recent actions by our country and in her travels has experienced first-hand the negative consequences of Bush and his team. The view of America overseas has significantly dropped. We are no longer viewed as the leader we once were.

Cathy stressed how partisan politics stinks and that she strives to work with all sides. To make changes, we need to elect people we believe in. Her hardest job, and ours, is finding strong people to run.

The discussion continued, the questions kept coming, and I finally had to give Cathy a break by shouting enough ! (Or something like that!) Many thanks to Cathy for her insights and her time, as well as for what she does to promote social justice worldwide. And many thanks to both Linda and Cathy for their incredible hospitality!

inSPIRE Book Club! we recently finished Blinded by the Right by David Brock, an insightful if controversial read about the mechanics of the Right-Wing slim machine. We are giving ourselves a little summertime break from serious reading and have chosen Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken as a light, summertime choice. Our next Book Club meeting is August 9th.


Previous meeting minutes


Previous IAN Events

Contact Us Copyright 2010 InspireSeattle ©