ROCHESTER, Minn. – The dust has now settled on the 2016 general election, but some are already looking forward to 2018. An effort is underway to learn why more women don’t run for office locally.
This past election cycle, there were four seats up for re-election on the Rochester City Council, including the at-large seat. However, only one woman ran for a seat, Annalissa Johnson, who won the Ward 6 seat and will replace Sandra Means, who is retiring.
Jessica Schmitt worked on a few local campaigns this past year and noticed a lot of women who were working behind the scenes, but wondered why more didn’t actually run. So she launched an online survey called Women and Rochester Politics to find out what may be keeping more women from running for office. The hope is to collect information about how many have an interest in running for a local, state or federal seat. She also hopes to gauge what interest there might be for holding seats on county or city boards/commissions.
The survey asks questions about what barriers might be holding someone back from running, and also explores what solutions could be out there.
“Can we potentially create like a local chapter of a group like Ready to Run, which is a national group that looks at bringing women to educational classes, running them through fundraising exercises so they can learn how to become a candidate and feel like they have that support behind them,” Schmitt explains.
As for Johnson, she thinks the survey is a great idea and hopes it might inspire more women to run in 2018.
“You know when I started, I didn’t know what to do,” she explains. “I was very fortunate that I had a team that helped me, otherwise I would probably still just be thinking about it. So that’s one of the things too, surrounding yourselves with people who know what they’re doing, who have done it, or are just as passionate about the community as you are.”
Schmitt says you don’t have to live in the city of Rochester to provide feedback.