A record number of women are now serving in Congress thanks to the “pink wave” of 2018, but women are still underrepresented in American politics. Why is that and what can we do to level the playing field? In this edition, co-hosts Jonathan Amarilio and Alexis Crawford Douglas are joined by Kate Black, a political advisor and former chief of staff of EMILY’S List, to discuss REPRESENT: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office & Changing the World—her recent collaboration with actress and comedian, June Diane Raphael. The book aims to eliminate barriers that may stop women from running for office by demystifying the process and providing an accessible step-by-step guide that any person can follow.
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The Represent Edition: Kate Black Explains How Women Can Run for Office and Change the World
Jon Amarilio: Hello everyone and welcome to CBA’s @theBar, a podcast where young and young-ish lawyers have unscripted conversations with our guests about legal news, events, topics, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy.
I am your host Jon Amarilio of Taft Stettinius & Hollister and co-hosting the pod with me today is my friend top-notch IP lawyer Alexis Crawford Douglas of K&L Gates.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Hey Jon.
Jon Amarilio: So joining us today is another author, seriously, it’s bush league Alexis. Why can’t we just have a celebrity on again? It’s a draw, they are fun, what about like, I don’t know, like a like a June Diane Raphael?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Jon —
Jon Amarilio: She is a triple threat; hold on, actress, comedian, screenwriter/great. Her work in HBO’s Flight of the Conchords was groundbreaking. I mean what? What?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Jon, our guest today actually co-wrote the book with June Diane Raphael.
Jon Amarilio: Seriously?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Yeah and she is pretty amazing in her own right.
Jon Amarilio: Well, why didn’t you say something, we are on the air. All right, I am sorry. It’s not your fault. It’s obviously Joan’s fault. She is the Executive Producer. She should prepare us better.
All right, you ready?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I am ready.
Jon Amarilio: All right, let’s start. So Alexis, it’s March, Women’s History Month and we are joined today appropriately enough by Kate Black, co-author of ‘Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World’. Kate is currently a policy advisor in the federal government and was formerly the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Research at EMILY’S List, the largest resource for women in politics. She served as Executive Director of American Women, a nonpartisan research organization working to uplift the voices of women and the issues they care about. She has helped elect female candidates up and down the ballot and across the country.
And her book, co-authored with triple threat, albeit oddly absent, June Diane Raphael, has garnered impressive attention, including a review by Hillary Clinton who calls it a wonderful resource for women thinking about taking a leap into politics.
Kate, welcome to @theBar.
Kate Black: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Jon Amarilio: So let’s start at the beginning. Why did you write this book, how did June get involved, what’s her phone number?
Kate Black: Well, June and I first met — we first got in touch after the 2016 elections where I think like so many people, men and women alike, felt like they could do more after that election. We saw millions of people take to the streets. We have seen — right after that we saw a historic number of women run for office actually. And June and myself really felt like we wanted to do more for our community. We wanted to basically show up a little bit more.
And June herself actually thought about running for office. She woke up after the election and thought well, in fact I could do it, having never run for office before, maybe there is room for me, maybe there is a seat that I could take, am I not just as qualified.
And she looked for a resource. She looked for a book that could kind of start her on her path to running for office, and the book doesn’t really exist. And she found her way to me at EMILY’S List at the time and for my part, you could imagine after 2016, having worked to elect Hillary Clinton, I was feeling those were some dark days and June kind of pitched me on this idea for an accessible how-to guide for any woman, Republican, Democrat, Green Party, Independent, whatever to run for office, and three years later that’s what’s on the shelves today. So we are really excited about it and really proud that it’s out there.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: That’s awesome. It does seem like an amazing resource. I haven’t seen anything else like it and I feel like it’s inspiring too for women maybe who hadn’t even thought about running for office before like myself reading it and you are like oh, maybe I could, probably not.
Kate Black: Yeah. And that really is a beautiful — but the beautiful thing about the book is it really is that first ask. I know through research about why women run, why we don’t run, what holds us back, why we are good leaders, that it does take women more asks to run. We are just not asked or recruited to run at the same frequency, at the same rate as men are and so you have to ask women over and over again to think about running for office and this book is really that first request.
This is whether you are buying it for a friend or your mother or a sister or your coworker or your boss or you are buying it for yourself, it’s really empowering and engaging to say to someone, hey, I think you should think about running for office. Imagine what that could do if more women thought about it that way. It’s pretty special and I think the book does a good job at making it feel like something that you could take on. In all the things that women already do, we think leadership should be a part of that and this book I think helps — it seems like an achievable goal.
Jon Amarilio: Why is that? Why is it important for women to run for office?
Kate Black: Oh, it’s so important. Let me tell you. So women right now make up over 50% of this country. We are a majority of the population. We are in fact the largest voting bloc, yet we make up just barely a quarter of the seats in Congress. Actually we just reached a milestone for the number of women that are in the Senate, and when I say that you might be thinking I am going to say 50, you might be thinking maybe 30; it’s 26, there are 26 women serving the United States Senate and that’s the most we have ever had in our nation’s history.
We need more women in leadership and not just in Washington, we are barely a third of the state legislatures around the country, almost half the country has never had a woman governor and we have never had an African-American woman governor ever anywhere. And what’s so impactful is that when women are at the table, when we have committee rooms and meeting rooms that look more like the population that this country has, we get better policies.
Some of the research that I have done and that others have done shows that when women are at the table, they are more likely to work across the aisle with their counterparts. They are more likely to pass more bills and introduce more legislation. They are also more likely to focus on issues that matter to women and families, so education and childcare and paternity leave, the environment, these are all things that women tend to focus on when they are in office.
And I think June and I fundamentally believe this to be true that when we have a government that looks more like the people it serves, we are going to have better policies about our bodies, our planet and our future generations of children that are going to occupy it. So we want to do everything we can to make sure that more women are on that ballot and that they win.
Jon Amarilio: So you had the breakdown of in your book why you thought it was important for women to run for office and I found myself agreeing with all of it, but also thinking of very prominent exceptions to everything that you were saying.
For example, when you were talking about how women govern for women, I started thinking about some of the most prominent politicians on the right side of the political spectrum; your Sarah Palins, your Betsy DeVos, your Elaine Chaos, your Nikki Haleys, Kellyanne Conway, Joni Ernst, not exactly paragons of feminism, right? And I am wondering if is it really a gender dynamic or is it just a right-left dynamic?
Kate Black: I mean there is no escaping from the partisan divides in this country. I think we are so entrenched in our kind of tribalism, these and ours, that that plays a big part in this. But at the same time what we don’t want to do and we certainly tried to avoid this in the book, we didn’t even call it out, we don’t want to fall, with everything that I just said which was really smart I am sure is that we don’t want to fall into an essentialist trap, where just because they are women, we believe them to lead a certain way or to think a certain way or to vote a certain way.
You named a few, I mean we all could name women who we have seen lead in ways that we wish maybe that they would lead differently. I think when we start talking in terms of essentialism, that’s where we run into trouble. However, everything that I just talked about, them sponsoring more bills and working across the aisle, that’s just the facts, that’s just what the data shows over years and years of combing through votes and sponsorships.
So I think at the end of the day if you are someone who kind of is tired of politics as usual in Washington, from my perspective the answer is voting for women because they are the ones who are going to actually move the needle and get things done. I mean let’s not forget it’s women who actually got us out of some pretty big jams, like the budget shutdown twice.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Right.
Kate Black: So I am always looking when there are crises where are the women and what are they doing because usually they are the ones who are going to get us out of it.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I think so too Kate.
Jon Amarilio: I mean I am sure you are not implying that male ego gets in the way of good governance.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I mean sitting here —
Kate Black: No, no, I mean you can just tell when you see photos coming out of Washington or state capitals or even committee room boardrooms even, this is true on the corporate side and you don’t see any women around or any people who don’t look like a majority of pretty much just white men, I think it should raise questions for all of us about who is making the decisions and whose voices are there and whose voices are more importantly not there.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Right, that makes sense. So let’s kind of move on to the hurdles I guess of getting women to run for office and it was the one that I just voiced at the beginning here was this idea, am I qualified to run, the idea that you mentioned in your book about women don’t even think about it or they lack an opportunity. So can you kind of expand on that and how does it really apply in the political arena.
Kate Black: Sure. So I think there are certainly some structural hurdles that stand in the way sometimes for women running for office and we can talk about those too; one of those is fundraising, which I know you want to talk about. Another one is voting structures and sometimes the way in which we get on ballots, but there are some internal hurdles as well. And one of this is feeling of not feeling qualified. And there have been research after research study about this question where we ask women candidates or potential women candidates, do you feel qualified to run for office?
And we include one of them in the book because it’s so telling I think about the problem, which is a group of men and a group of women were asked do you feel qualified to run for office, and a majority of the women said no. Now, of the men who said I am not qualified to run for office, these are the guys who put their hands up and self-selected and said not for me, I don’t meet the bar. A majority of that group still said they would run for office. They still said I will throw my hat in the ring, why not, while a majority of women said no, of course not.
Jon Amarilio: So women just need to be more ambitious, right, that’s what I am hearing here?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: This sounds like every day at work.
Kate Black: It’s really about the sailing upwards, right, but I think that — when that’s the stat that we are confronted with, if this is the pool of candidates, guys who are saying I am not qualified at all but why the heck not, then I say to the women out there thinking about it like absolutely girl, like go for it. The water is warm.
But I am not surprised when I see these stats too because it’s — women haven’t been behind podiums, we haven’t been at the front of the class, we haven’t been in the halls of Congress, we haven’t been leaders in the same way that men have for generations in this country. So the old expression is you can’t be what you can’t see and I think that’s what we are seeing here with this feeling of not feeling qualified.
So to that end what we wanted to do in the book is really break down just who is representing us. And so we looked at the professions that the members of the 115th Congress, so the last Congress that was in session, we looked to see what were the jobs that they had before they ran for Congress and are there lawyers, which we all need them, God love them and they should run for office, but there were also teachers and nurses and there were farmers and social workers and veterans and there were radio show hosts and there were car salesmen even. There are all kinds of people with all different backgrounds who find their way to running for office.
And we wanted, especially with this chapter which is called Am I Qualified, we wanted every woman reading it to feel like the answer was yes and that they are qualified today, whatever their résumé looks like. It may not fit on a really clean 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, they might not have a ton of degrees on the wall, but if they are ready now and that their experience is their expertise, what connects them to their community, what drives them to make change and where they see it needs to be made, that is what’s going to connect with voters and ultimately help them win races, not a series of letters behind their name or years of experience in professional careers, it is exactly where they are today that makes them experts and ready to run.
Jon Amarilio: So let’s say someone is ready to run, they have to assemble an inner circle, right, they have to figure out who is going to help them run, you need a campaign manager, a finance director, a treasurer, a communications director, a research director, digital director, legal compliance advisor, consultants, all the directors, right, you are a woman out there who wants to run, how do you find those people? How do you figure out who is going to help you? How do you start when you probably don’t have a lot of money to start?
Kate Black: Well, it’s a great question because I think sometimes we feel — I think many women feel like the act of running for office is something they are going to take on by themselves. And so to your point, running for office is not a solo activity, it is a fully team sport and the question is where do you find that team?
Now, I think it depends on what level you are running for. Many of the jobs you just named, you are going to have those in your congressional races and your Senate races, your gubernatorial or your statewide races, any of your big campaigns, you are absolutely going to have those and there are lots of people and professionals and committees and organizations dedicated to helping you find those people.
But if you are running on your local level and you are running for school board, state legislature, city council, sheriff, judge, comptroller, all things you can run for, some of those people are people in your network already. And so one of the things we wanted to do, because women tend to not have been in the same financial or power or political networks that men have built and perpetuated for generations in this country, we tried in the book to say okay, if you are not working in the C suite right now, if you are a junior associate at a law firm, if you are a stay-at-home mom, if you are a student, how do you find these people, how do you build that network to not only help you win but also raise the money and all the things you are going to do to — need to do to win.
And so to that end we thought okay, let’s reframe those powerful networks, the networks that women have been kind of kept out of and let’s think about where we already have community, where we already are. And so whether that’s your sorority, your professional network, your Bar Association, your kickball league, your church, your synagogue, your mosque, maybe your book club; hopefully you are reading this book in your book club, but wherever women are naturally that is where we can start to find some of these people.
And so when you think about who your campaign manager is, that is someone who will not sugarcoat the truth, that is someone who is in your corner 100%, that is someone who you don’t need to be friends with but by God you are going to spend a lot of time with them so you have got to make sure that’s someone you like.
Maybe it is also someone who has a lot of experience in politics, that seems to know what’s happening at the city council more than you do. You might be thinking about who is going to help me raise this money. Well, there is probably someone in your life who is already either naturally gathering people for causes or organizing events and these events can just be happy hours, but there is probably someone in your life who is constantly kind of bringing people together, that might be someone to think about for a finance director or at least someone to start hosting events for you.
Or there might be someone who is a great fundraiser for a local charity or a church or a cause that they care about, these are the people you can tap into, to start asking some basic questions about how to expand your network, how to make an ask, but also how to start bringing in the resources you are going to need to build a successful campaign.
Jon Amarilio: Okay. So my wife for example raises money for the Art Institute for a living, Alexis, when you decide to make your run, she can be your treasurer.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Got it, awesome.
Kate Black: This sounds great.
Jon Amarilio: Yeah, already making the connections.
Kate Black: Yeah, there is probably someone here like you who like knows — there is probably a nosy neighbor or someone who knows what everyone’s business is in the neighborhood, that’s a great field director, right, that’s the person who can show you —
Jon Amarilio: The nosy person.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I think that’s me.
Kate Black: They know who is voting for who I guarantee it. So there are these people in our lives that we can tap into and it doesn’t have to be big jobs, but it could be small things like helping design a logo or you probably know someone maybe who is a good writer, maybe they can help write a speech or two, these are things that we can ask for help, we just have to start asking for the help that we need.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I think asking is a big — it was a big piece of this and that chapter on asking for help and asking for money was something that kind of hit me, because I am just like oh, I don’t like that, nobody likes to ask people for money really, but the way you —
Jon Amarilio: It’s the worst.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Yeah. It’s just awkward and it feels like they are paying you. I mean we have to do it all day every day, but I thought the way you portrayed it in the book and if you could kind of talk about that, framing it in terms of the cause or the issues or what’s happening with that was interesting.
Kate Black: Exactly. So we hear this from so many women and fundraising is a big hurdle to women running for office. We know it costs a lot of money to run for office in this country. We also know that women have a harder time raising that money, especially women of color too have a harder time raising that money, and so anything we can do to help more women make that ask is really important.
And so one big way to kind of get over that ugh feeling of raising money is to again reframe it completely. You are not asking for you, you don’t put your hand out and are kind of begging people for money for you, this is about offering someone a chance to invest in your campaign, in your vision for your community, in your solutions for the problems you are seeing.
And when you flip the script like that, when you change it from please give me money to I am offering you a chance to be a part of something, that’s a completely different scenario. And it certainly does take the onus off of — the focus off of you, in a very personal sense. But it also puts the ball in their court. You are seeing that they can be really successful on the presidential race. Right now there are some fundraisers who they call their donors investors even, and I think it’s for this exact reason, you want people to literally buy in to what you are selling.
We also offer some other tips in the book too that I think when it comes to making what we call the hard ask, which is you are asking for a number, you are not just asking can you please help with my campaign, you are asking for $200, you are asking for $500, you are asking for $5,000, you are making that hard ask because you are specific and you know what you want. But in making that hard ask we also offer some tips that I think can apply to I think all of us in the professional world who might be asking for a raise or that promotion or that new responsibility or whatever it is that we are kind of getting a presumption to maybe approach our boss or someone in power.
The trick is to make that hard ask and then to be silent, to be as still and as silent as humanly possible, which I think for a lot of people, myself included, we want to fill the void, we want to not have an awkward silence, but especially if you are over the phone, this doesn’t work in person, but if you are over the phone, do whatever you can to stay quiet. For me, I bite down on a pencil, I will take a sip of water, I will do whatever I can to stay quiet because you want that other person to respond, you don’t want to give them another reason to say no. You want to wait to see what they say and then you can counter. So little pro tip, stay quiet.
Jon Amarilio: And on that fantastic cliffhanger we will take our first break.
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Jon Amarilio: And we are back. So Katie, we were talking about raising money, which is everything in politics today and certainly anyone who is in office or who wants to run for office has to deal with the fact that they are going to spend most of their days asking for money, but for those who are just starting out, and that ideal woman candidate that we have been talking about, she is probably not going to be able to raise a lot of money upfront right away, right, she is going to have to sell finance at least at the beginning. How do you do that?
Kate Black: Well, this is a great question because it’s so important and what we try to really stress in the book is to remember that you were going to raise this money. We go through a whole process in the book about trying to identify once you understand where you are running and what you are running for, what your ideal budget would be, so what is your target, what are you trying to raise towards. When you have the number, it can feel daunting. You could be, even for a local, local, local, local race we could be talking about a couple of thousand dollars, we could be talking about 20,000. And then if you go up and up and up you are in the millions all of a sudden and that can feel — the weight of that could feel so daunting that it could turn you off, and what we want to do is make sure that we understand that you are raising that money. You do not have to have that money in your bank account.
Now, does it help to have a rich uncle? Sure. It can absolutely help to have a rich uncle, but with wealth, that can come with some issues as well. I mean we have all seen wealthy candidates who have issues with investments and conflicts of interest and needing to divest things or sell things or who they have gotten money from in the past.
Jon Amarillo: I think all those rules are out the window for the past three years, don’t you? I mean, those are nice ideas but —
Kate Black: The voting public I think is more attuned to these sensitivities now. I mean, I don’t think many people knew what emoluments were before, so — but I do think it’s important for a woman thinking about running for office that you’re going to raise this money. Does it mean you might end up spending some of your own, you could possibly, but it’s so important to remember that you don’t have to spend that money and we interviewed women candidates and elected officials in this book.
We interviewed Ayanna Pressley and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, we interviewed Columbus City Councilwoman Liz Brown and former Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Jenny Durkan the Mayor of Seattle, and one of the things that we heard a lot from these women especially Ayanna Pressley talked about when she first ran for City Council in Boston, she cashed out her 401k.
And, if you talk to her today she would tell you not to do that because at the time it felt like the only way that she could make this dream a reality and it was fascinating to hear her look back on that choice and to think, I shouldn’t have done that because you risked so much when you put your financial security on the line. But I think this dovetails nicely I think into a topic that I know you want to just talk about too which was personal baggage, and certainly financial issues fall into that bucket, for sure.
Jon Amarillo: Right, so like in the good old days, a person, almost always men, right, because they’re good old days could run for office and unless there was something that was considered particularly bad in their background, they would run without too much attention being paid by the public to their personal picadillo. So I’m thinking of Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, JFK’s womanizing, LBJ’s womanizing, Grover Cleveland’s womanizing, FDR using a wheelchair, heck I think Andrew Jackson was a bigamist, wasn’t he? And he definitely dueled with people. Yeah, he even tried to kill people in his free time.
Kate Black: That was not a big deal.
Jon Amarillo: Yeah, like not – okay, anyway, that’s not the case anymore everything is on the Internet, even stuff you didn’t put on the Internet, even stuff that you thought you removed from the Internet, stuff that is just in a computer that’s connected to the Internet is going to be out there, it’s going to be found by APO research, right, that is I think for a lot of qualified people, but reasonable people, one of the scariest things about running for office because everybody has skeletons in their closet, right? How do you address that?
Kate Black: Well, it’s a great question and I think let me say two things from the start. One, I got my start in politics as an opposition researcher.
Jon Amarillo: Oh perfect.
Kate Black: So I feel uniquely qualified to tell you what is and is not on the Internet.
Jon Amarillo: Feel free to gossip.
Kate Black: But secondly, I think this is so important right now because we’ve just gone through the very public episode with Congresswoman — former Congresswoman Katie Hill, and I think we heard from so many women after that that this is a real fear that what happened to her could happen to them.
And so much of our lives are online, so much of our lives are in our hands and our devices that it’s really important to understand just what’s out there and what’s not and what’s accessible and what’s not.
I think in the book what we try to do is break it into two kind of buckets. The first bucket — and I should say that this chapter is titled ‘What About Those Pesky News?’ because I feel like this is something that certainly I know so many women think about and our generation is living came on the Internet with Facebook, this next generation is in a whole different world when it comes to kind of what’s shared and what’s accessible. So it’s so important; but, there’s two categories. The first is what are you putting out onto the Internet? What are you putting out into the world, and that’s something that you can control. So it’s certainly starting with social media, thinking about doing a deep dive into every tweet, every Facebook post, every Insta post, every dating website.
If you got a Tinder profile just hanging out there, it might be time to clean it up like these are all the places where we do put data about ourselves online and if you’re thinking about running for office, put out the curated version of yourself that is that candidate. This is a time where you can actually shape and control what’s out there.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Kate, does that clean up now work for things that were out there in the past like as an opposition researcher, would you still be able to find old posts.
Jon Amarillo: Alexis is very concerned to look at those.
Kate Black: Every tweet, I mean, you can do this, you can, there are tools that will help you download every tweet or every Facebook post, you can or you can just spend a weekend with yourself and just really clean through it and June and I say in the book where the rule is it’s a bit old note, you sniff it twice and it’s so bad, just throw it away, just delete it. It’s okay to delete old posts because if it was something that you wrote in college or if it was something that you think about it now and you look at it you’re like that’s not funny or it was inappropriate or that’s not the view I have now the issue I was talking about then. It’s okay to delete it.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: It’s not like a legal record, right?
Jon Amarillo: That was the exfoliation issues there.
Kate Black: Yeah, so when it comes to — so that’s social media, right, and we need to be really careful about what we’re putting out in the world on that front. But then there are other records about you online that you should be aware of and that includes certainly legal records if you’ve been arrested, if you have outstanding warrants or parking tickets, these are things that you want to clear up and certainly figure out how you can get either legal advice from a friend or your lawyer or an accountant to help you sort through what’s what and what needs to be taken care of before you take that next step.
Having those things, so having legal issues or having personal debts, we think that these things are out there because we’re probably going to have to report them in some sort of personal financial disclosure as we gear up to run that people are going to think that they’re disqualifying.
In the book we say absolutely that shouldn’t be the case because there are millions of people who probably also are experiencing the same thing as you and it could be that connection that actually speaks to the problem that you’re facing. It might bring people into your story.
I’ll give you two examples. One is Congresswoman Katie Porter. Katie Porter is a lawyer from California and she was running for Congress and she had been a victim of domestic violence and she had had a restraining order put on her ex-husband and her opponents party used that against her and called her “Restraining Order Porter”.
And instead of trying to ignore it or brush it aside, she’s faced that head-on and really I think challenged the race and made everyone think about just how wrong it was that they were using that against her but also the issue that she faced and so many women and families faced with domestic violence.
Another example is Stacey Abrams, when she was running for governor. She had personal debt, she was carrying the healthcare cost for some of her family members, she had college student loans like so many of us and she was getting attacked for it and she put an op-ed in Forbes magazine and talked about, yes, I have this personal debt like so many millions of people who do. This is why, but it should not disqualify me from running for governor of Georgia. In fact it should make me more qualified because I’m having the same struggles and I know the solutions and I know the way out for not just me but so many other people like me in the State of Georgia.
Jon Amarillo: So you’re saying make weaknesses into strengths by making them campaign issues essentially.
Kate Black: Exactly, there’s a way that you can co-opt these issues to make them part of your narrative and not something that you feel like you have to hide in a closet. It’s when we hide things that voters are distrustful. It’s when we bring light and voice and story to things that we connect with people.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I think that was a really empowering piece of the book too, thinking about how to manipulate those or move them into just fronting them, saying this is what I have, this is it, this is my story.
Another piece that you have in the book too was how do you — you have this personal baggage you kind of get through that issue, get your hands around it and then how does this work with your everyday life, right, a lot of women, you have children or family members that they’re caring for, you have a full-time job.
Jon Amarillo: Man baby husband.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Oh yes, exactly, man baby husbands, for sure. How does it fit in? How do you find time to campaign?
Kate Black: I mean, woof, right? I think this is something that we fought with our publisher because we wanted this was a giant piece of the book and we fought to keep it as big as we could because it’s so important. It’s called IRL and basically in real life how does this work? Women are doing so much. We are the majority of caretakers in this country yet we don’t earn as much as we should.
We are the majority of minimum wage earners in this country and we are usually holding multiple jobs some of that being paid or unpaid labor. I think you add running for office on top of that I think it’s an easy thing, and it’s incredibly hard to imagine just in the day how does this work?
So we broke it up into four pieces, the first being time. Do you have the time to run for office? And the first thing you need to do to think about that is, how am I spending my time now?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: That was a cool exercise.
Kate Black: So June and I do — yeah, we do a time log and mine was in an Excel sheet, June’s was narrative, that’s fine, there’s no shame in an Excel sheet and just breaking it down over two-week period, how are you spending your time between work but fun, family care, self-care all of these things, and then you can start to see, okay, what could give.
Now, in June’s case she works kind of a regular hours, it’s more of a — we call her for lack of a better phrase “a gig worker” and so when she was looking at it, she came out of that time exercise and thought, okay, I could give two hours a week to running for office. She asked me she said, Kate is that enough? And I said, no. Frankly, it’s not enough.
Jon Amarillo: How many hours?
Kate Black: And when I would say my time —
Jon Amarillo: Kate, how many — I apologize for interrupting I was just — that raises the question in my mind if you’re running for like a local office, a first step kind of run, how many hours a week does that take?
Kate Black: Well, this is a great question and it’s one that we sort of tackle in a chapter before that about where you are trying to figure out the budget and where you’re going to run because so much of what that answer is, is about the size of race and the size of the place that you’re running in.
So you could imagine the city — running for City Council in Columbus, Ohio, where I’m from, that race might look different than running for City Council in New York City, running for School Board of a small School District in Washington State because it’s very different than running for School Board in Austin, Texas, one of the largest school districts. So it’s important to kind of — it’s not apples to apples necessarily, what it is is figuring out kind of the size and scope of where you’re running.
If you’re running for it let’s say June is in Los Angeles. If she’s running for School Board in Los Angeles, which is something that she kind of talked about, that’s a big race and that race could cost in the millions.
And we’re talking about School Board so two hours a week is certainly not enough for that, and I work no more of a 9-to-5 job and I work for the Federal Government which precludes me from doing a lot of the activities that you need to do to run for office because of the Hatch Act. So I would need to leave my job to run for office and which kind of goes into that next question which is about money. Do you have the financial security that you would need to run for office?
Now, this is also a question about your career and your job because you might be able — depending on your job, you might be able to work part-time or reduced hours to use maybe like half of your day to run to office or like in my case or if you’re active military, you can’t actually run for office and keep your job or you’re running for an office that requires you just all of your time it’s going to be doing your campaign. So you actually cannot have another job at the same time. So how do you make money? How are you financially secure in the midst of that? And so we do a budget exercise where you kind of think about, okay, what are my expenses right now, how could I make this work for a certain period of time if I had to, can I talk to my employer about possibly running for office and keeping my job or taking a leave of absence and coming back to it if my campaign isn’t successful?
These are really important questions, and on top of all of that, we’ve added a discussion in there because I think it’s so important for women to be cognizant of this fact, which is that a lot of offices and public servants in the country do not make a living wage. We think about Congress and the annual salary there is about a $174,000 a year, which is they’re doing fine, right.
But you look at some of the more local offices in this country and some of them pay a dollar a year, some of them go unpaid, some of them are so low paying that it functionally requires only people who have some sort of high paying yet flexible scheduled profession like a lawyer maybe or some doctors to be able to functionally take that office. I mean, if you’re making $1 a year in the New Hampshire State Legislature, how do you make money the rest of the time to feed yourself and your family?
You really have to be able to figure that out.
Jon Amarillo: Sell your votes.
Kate Black: That was the second piece.
Jon Amarillo: Just turn to your office, I mean, come on, it wouldn’t be the first time. So, let’s say that you know someone who would make an outstanding female candidate, Alexis, name that pops in my head. What could I do to support someone like that or to encourage them to make a run, get involved?
Kate Black: I mean, the first thing I would say is, Alexis, you should buy this book, or here is this book, Alexis, for your birthday this is — because I do think this book is really a great way if you don’t know what to say, it’s a great gift to start that person thinking about it.
The other things that we can do, and this is a question that we actually get a lot on the book tour, which is, I don’t know if I’m ready to run, but I know somebody should or how do I help other women run. There are a couple easy ways, number one is you could vote for them, voting for them is an easy way to show that you support women candidates. You can also donate money, you can also donate your time. Behind every woman candidate, there is a legion of probably other women and men who are donating energy and time and expertise and just willingness to walk the dog, pick up the dry-cleaning, make sure that there’s Diet Coke in the fridge or whatever she drinks is on hand, making sure that she needs to get out for a walk that you’re there. There are ways in which we can show up for the friends in our lives or the people who are running for office. So that’s certainly one of them.
And then the other thing that we can do is, we can all start kind of interrupting some of the sexist and racist bullshit that we hear about women candidates and we include in the book a cheat sheet to interrupting sexist and racist bullshit. And it’s meant to be cut out of the book and taken with you for when you find yourself in a situation where you’re hearing things like I just don’t like her or her voice was shrill, she doesn’t smile enough, she doesn’t represent me, I don’t want to have a beer with her, she doesn’t represent my interests or my community, she’s playing the race card, she is playing the woman card.
I mean, I could go on and on and on, right, it’s not her turning. All of these things are things that we hear about women candidates and a thing that we can do is start to interrupt some of that language with — and we provide some possible responses because sometimes we don’t know what to say whether we’re seeing it online or hearing it from a friend or a co-worker or seeing in the media even.
And so when we start responding with some basic questions like tell me more about that or why do you think that or have you donated to her if you don’t think she’s raising enough money, things like this can help not only pushback about the criticism of one woman candidate but can actually start to break down stereotypes about all women candidates and that could be a really powerful thing.
Jon Amarillo: And with that piece of neighbourly wisdom, we’ll take our second break.
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And we’re back. So, Kate, we like to close every episode with a game we call Stranger than Legal Fiction. The rules are simple. Alexis and I have done a little bit of research on the Internet. We found a real law that, well, is real but shouldn’t be, and we’ve made another one up and we’re going to pull you and each other to see if we can distinguish strange legal fact from fiction.
Are you ready to play?
Kate Black: I am ready. All right, Alexis, why don’t you lead us off?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: No, you go first.
Jon Amarillo: You want me to go first? All right, I’ll go first. All right, so since we’re talking about — since we were talking about sexist bullshit, I’ll start off with some of that.
In South Carolina, it’s a misdemeanor for a man to seduce an unmarried woman with a false promise of marriage. That’s option number one.
Kate Black: What?
Jon Amarillo: Wait, hold on, hold on, maybe it’s real, maybe it’s not, I don’t know.
Kate Black: How would you prove that? Okay, okay.
Jon Amarillo: All right, that’s the law, maybe. Option number two, in Oregon it’s illegal to practice in the occult arts including fortune-telling, astrology, mesmerism, clairvoyance, etc whereby an attempt or pretense is made to tell the future to analyze the past, to analyze a person’s character or even just to give advice.
Kate, which one’s real, which one’s fake?
Kate Black: Oh man. Okay, I think South Carolina must be — no I think Oregon must be fake because it does bonkers, of course, people could tell fortunes in Oregon. Yeah, I think Oregon is fake.
Jon Amarillo: All right, Alexis, thoughts?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I think it was too long.
Jon Amarillo: It’s too long, meaning —
Alexis Crawford Douglas: The fortune-telling one, meaning it’s fake.
Jon Amarillo: Meaning that’s the fake one?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Yeah.
Jon Amarillo: Well, this is going to come as a shock to anyone who’s ever been to Portland, but the Oregon one is real, and it’s still a law. The South Carolina option was a law, but it was repealed get this in 2016. Pretty recently. Yeah.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: These are good.
Kate Black: I bet it was a woman who repealed it too, I bet a woman found it and she was like F this.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Right, right, so she has spent all of her time.
Jon Amarillo: I mean, the Oregon one shocked me because I mean Portland like you trip over those places.
Kate Black: You have me mesmerize it. What do you say it mesmered? What was it?
Jon Amarillo: Mesmerism.
Kate Black: Right. Yeah, I was like that’s not real.
Jon Amarillo: Well, now you know.
Kate Black: Oh man, wow this is a fun game. Alexis?
Jon Amarillo: All right, Alexis.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: So I kept mine to Illinois, Chicago specifically. Number one is — the first option is that it’s forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck.
Jon Amarillo: It’s forbidden to fish while sitting on a giraffe’s neck. Wow, okay.
Kate Black: And the giraffe is in Illinois.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: The second one.
Jon Amarillo: We have zoos. We’re not barbarians.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Definitely, I was thinking Lincoln Park Zoo, right, you just sit on top of it anyway, and then the second is that no cannon or a piece of artillery shall be discharged or fired off in any public way except with permission of the City Council.
Jon Amarillo: Kate, you’re a guest, why don’t you go first?
Kate Black: Well, I mean I got to the Jurassic — I mean of course no cannon can be set up but what if you are setting up cannon?
Alexis Crawford Douglas: So let me tell you the story.
Jon Amarillo: Wait, wait, wait, wait, you can’t tell us yet, you can’t tell us yet, calm down, we are still guessing.
Kate Black: Did you just give it away, I feel you gave it away.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Yeah, I totally gave it away.
Jon Amarillo: I think she probably just gave it away but okay please continue.
Kate Black: Yeah, I mean, yeah, I think — I think the cannon thing is real I think the giraffe thing is totally bonkers and fake, that’s my guess.
Jon Amarillo: I am going to go with that and I’m going to say that it’s because Chicago was founded with Fort Dearborn which had lots of artillery.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Good point. But let me talk to you about this. The research, I was doing research on this, right, because Jen said I had to shepardize the law, she was gotten in trouble for not shephardizing it.
Jon Amarillo: You do. We are very meticulous here. We get angry comments from people.
Alexis Crawford Douglas: Right, and I’m like googling what can I do and then the fish was one, it was listed as an Internet option but it was forbidden to fish well and I was just like, what? So then I go through all the code, the city code, while we’re in another meeting before this I can’t find draft with the city code. So, you guys are right, it was an easy one, but research, right, it’s all about research.
Kate Black: Yeah, I like that you went, I mean, this is why this podcast is great because like a lawyer would go through the code and —
Alexis Crawford Douglas: I was like I can’t get on a podcast.
Jon Amarillo: And in Alexis’ defense usually the more absurd it is, the more true it is, that’s been my experience.
Kate Black: It was kind of tricky, it was kind of tricky I was like, oh dang, what if mid drafting is actually the correct one, but we can’t be like setting up cannon.
Jon Amarillo: Right, but we had one once where it’s actually legal in this town in Arizona for a donkey to get in a bathtub, that’s a law, so you never know. But we’re going to have to leave it there. That’s our show for today. I want to thank our guest Kate Black for this interesting and hopefully inspiring conversation.
The book is ‘Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World’ and according to no less than Hillary Clinton it’s a wonderful resource for women thinking of running for office.
I also want to thank my co-host, Alexis Crawford Douglas, our executive producer Jen Byrne, Ricardo Islas on sound, and everyone at the Legal Talk Network family. They are the best in the biz.
Remember, you can follow us and send us comments, questions, episode ideas or just troll us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, @CBAatthebar.
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Until next time for everyone here at the CBA, thank you for joining us and we will see you soon at the Bar.