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America’s Opportunity Fund Offers Campaign Staff Training

America’s Opportunity Fund (AOF) is proud to announce it is Marching Forward on March 4th with a Campaign Staff Training on March 4-5 at George Mason University. The event will offer intensive weekend training with a cost of $150. Learn the skills necessary to work on a campaign or allied organization. Online application can be found here.
America’s Opportunity Fund (AOF) is a Political Action Committee with the mission to support progressive AAPI candidates, increase voter turnout among AAPIs for AOF-endorsed candidates, and promote emerging leaders within communities of color, especially within the AAPI community as potential candidates and campaign operatives. America’s Opportunity Fund (AOF) can be found at http://americasopportunityfund.com, on Twitter @amoppfund, on Facebook @Americas.Opportunity.Fund

AAA-Fund Co-Sponsors Candidate Training with Emily’s List

500 Women Get Ready to Run for Elected Office

Washington – The morning after the Women’s March on Washington, as marchers were seen rolling luggage onto the metro train on the return home, 500 women stayed in town for a training on running for elected office. Greeted with jumbo screens flashed with “Getting Ready to Run,” the women poured into a Grand Hyatt Washington ballroom in a first step toward moving from activism into political decision making around issues such as reproductive choice and health care, immigration and education.

The AAA Fund, together with five other partner organizations, co-sponsored the training with Emily’s List.

“Empowering progressive Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women to run for office, manage campaigns, or become effective political activists has been a top priority of the AAA Fund since we first got started in 2000. Emily’s List is one of the country’s preeminent campaign organizations and we were delighted to partner with them to organize this training. It was a perfect follow-on to the incredibly inspirational women’s march the day before,” said Paul Tiao, board member and co-founder, AAA Fund.

Women of color comprise 36.5% of the 104 women serving in the current Congress – the fruits of effort by Emily’s List and its partner organizations. At the training, a representative group of Democratic candidate hopefuls were assembled, including 14% African American, 19% Latina, 10% Asian American/Pacific Islander, 6% multi-racial/ethnic and 15% LGBTQ.

AAA Fund board member Irene Lin spoke to the crowd specifically on the gains by Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women in Congress. Three Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women senators now serve in the U.S. Senate, while seven AAPIA women hold office in the U.S. House of Representatives. Among the new faces is Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the first Indian American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representative. Jayapal was among the speakers invited to rally the future leaders.

To keep breaking the color line, the sponsors are banking on women like Grace Choi and Quinnie Lin to maintain their interest after the training.

“I feel that we need more women out there, and more women of color. As an AAPI, I feel like we need to have people who look like me representing America as well because it’s not well represented right now among all the elected officials,” said Grace Choi, a resident of Arlington, Virginia.

Quinnie Lin, a lawyer based in Washington, D.C. agreed. She said, “I am here at this Emily’s List training because I care about representation and politics. I want to see more women and people of color get into elected office because currently the landscape does not reflect us.”

Stephanie Schriock, Emily List’s President, opened the event with an urgency of mission. “We have two options,” she told the crowd. “We’ve got to run for office or we’ve got to back up a sister who is running.”

Emily’s List’s vision is “a government that reflects the people it serves, and decision makers who genuinely and enthusiastically fight for greater opportunity and better lives for the Americans they represent.” For the organizers, that means more women.

Women lag in representation. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, women barely have broken through the 25% ceiling in any political institution at the local, state or federal levels. In comparison, women are 50.8% of the American population, according to the U.S. Census.

“If we are not at the table, we will be on the menu,” former Kansas state Rep. Delia Garcia, said, drawing a tight connection between the issues that concern women and their representation in government.

Since 1985, Emily’s List has worked to place more women in elected offices. They boost record successes: 139 Members of Congress, 12 governors and 800+ state and local officials. The pipeline starts early. The participants at the training ranged in age from a 13-year-old teen to 55+ year old retirees, while the majority of the participants fell between the 25- to 34-year old range.

The morning agenda was organized to inspire and inform, to allow the women to self-reflect and forge new allies. Speakers appealed to the flicker within the potential future candidates to make a difference for their families and communities. Also, they spoke to the elusive sense that there is a perfect time to run. Rep. Garcia was a semester away from graduating for a master’s degree when she received the call to run. Concerned about completing her studies, she declined five times. When she did finally agree, she had to balance final exams and a campaign. But within months of each other, she had both her degree and an elected office as the first Latina representative in her state.

Muthoni Wambu Kraal, Senior Director for State Engagement and Development for Emily’s List, addressed system barriers to entering politics. She asked, “Who’s going to bring down the barriers, if not women?”

Kraal also addressed the barriers that women erect for themselves – fear and doubt. You can be single, an unmarried mother, a responsible parent, a non-college degree holder, a non-lawyer, she said. Successful candidates are the women with ideas to help the community and the willingness to learn and ask for help, along with passion, integrity and energy.

When women do run, the women’s presence in elected office creates a daisy chain effect. “When you are in a position of power, you take all of us with you,” said Martin Diego Garcia, Director of Campaigns, Latino Victory Fund.

(Film and reporting by Aryani Ong; Editing and production by Christian Humes)

How we win: build local power

The answer to how we regroup, and how we win, is the same as it’s always been, even given that the unthinkable occurred. It is how any group of people has ever won against long odds.

I am not saying that the next four years will be easy. I remember working my twenty-three year old heart out in Minnesota in 2004, and watching election night returns with a steadily sinking heart. My friend and I hugged each other and held tight. My flight and SuperShuttle back was full of Republicans jubilant in victory. Meanwhile, all I could think was that it would take the rest of my lifetime to undo the SCOTUS decisions that would occur under 4 years of President George W. Bush. I had already seen the deleterious impact of the PATRIOT Act and special registration while working in my Congresswoman’s district office, with families coming in and crying over hard decisions of going underground, splitting up, or moving to Canada.

That was 12 years ago and it feels like a lifetime. Now we have a president-elect whom the previous worst president ever and his father wouldn’t even vote for. I’m pretty convinced that it will take 2 lifetimes to undo the damage done by a Trump presidency. Republicans are 1 state away from controlling enough legislatures to pass Constitutional amendments (this is perhaps scariest of all.) Watching the 2016 returns from the NVDems theoretical victory party, feeling half alive, half dead, and very much like Schrodinger’s cat, I hugged that same friend from ’04 who was there and we commented on how similar it felt. How just like 2004, it doesn’t feel better to win your state when the whole country has lost. As I left Aria, I glanced at the faces of all the young staffers and volunteers, at the children who were in attendance, and I felt bad. They didn’t know just how bad it can get. I’d worked in DC under a Republican administration, where all the agencies turn into the opposite. But this, this would be more unpredictable.

A day later, I went to lunch with a friend and mentee. She asked me the odds of us surviving. Initially I gave a low number but then I thought about all the people I saw on Election Night, friends I’d made over 3 cycles. Friends who had done great work in building local power in Las Vegas and Nevada who were also shocked that Nevada had accomplished so much in four short years.

If you had asked me 4 or 6 years ago if I thought Nevada would be the shining star of election night, I would have snorted. People used to cry about being sent to work the state because of in-fighting, lack of infrastructure, and a highly transient population. Then we won, picking up 2 out of 6 House Democratic seats, and helping to send the first Latina to the U.S. Senate.

Nevada’s victory didn’t come out of nowhere. It took lots of dedicated hours and volunteers. It took some people stepping down so that new leaders could arise. But most of all, it took people putting aside their differences and personality conflicts and egos. The unions worked together and Culinary’s program anchored Labor 2016. Other progressive groups also worked together better. They built local organizations and local power. The AAPI community finally built a community center, and new leaders surfaced who were committed to serving the community. Mostly, no one wanted a repeat of 2014 where the Silver State lost all their Democratic statewides and both legislative houses, which led to a disastrous legislative session. So they were determined to work together.

Other cities, other states can do it too. We, as individuals, can work together. We have to work together because the consequences for not holding tight are too dire. Each of us can make a difference by taking a stand. By running for PTA president or school board. By reaching out at an interfaith service. It all starts somewhere. The answer to the question of how we survive is the same as ever: build local power. Some are waiting for someone, anyone to come and save us. But if there is one thing that I learned from Ferguson, it’s that we have to save ourselves. We are beautiful and so very worth saving. Our democracy is a time-tested and yet fragile ecosystem, one that requires our energy and our participation to keep it alive and functioning. So we are here to do the work, with our two hands, full lungs, and a steadily beating heart.


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