|Open Letter to Our WISE SistersDear Members,
We are writing to thank you for your support and effort on this WISE journey over the past 22 months. It is a good time to put these midterm results in context, to take stock of our journey and to collectively ponder how we can continue to be a women’s organization that promotes inclusivity, fairness and safety in our communities as we go forward, across the many divides that now exist in our country.
WISE was born out of anger and a fear that this country would be taken backwards with the election of Donald Trump. For many months, we proudly played an active role in the resistance movement, we showed up at marches and airports, then at town halls, we organized community conversations with our leaders and around our priorities and we held our representatives’ feet to the fire around legislation, policies and budgets. We can proudly say that we have been part of a national movement that has changed the course of American democracy.
As we moved to include more proactive acts of offense at the local level to those of resistance and defense at the national level, WISE screened and then supported a number of local candidates who shared our values. On Tuesday night, we were able to assess that strategy. There is no doubt that what we saw on Tuesday represents a marked shift in our state and county. More women were elected to the Senate and House of Representatives, we witnessed the rejection by voters of Mr. Schuh who has underfunded our public schools, caused divisions within our neighborhoods and created a pay to play culture nurturing an unhealthy influence of developers over decisions that affect our quality of life and our environment. And, as Mr. Pittman takes office as the new County Executive, he will be surrounded by a new Council of majority women – many of whom share many of WISE’s core values. The election of Anne Colt-Leitess and Vicky Gibson is cause for celebration. This is progress.
At the same time, the results in District 33 on Tuesday night suggest that, while great strides were made, we still have a way to go. We were lucky to have a wonderful set of female candidates proudly campaigning for our public schools, gun safety, fiscal responsibility and the environment. Their campaigns inspired us and we cannot thank them enough for their sacrifice. They have all been true role models to us, our children and the rest of the County. They ran brave campaigns the way women do – with brains, inclusion, hard work and good humor. Early on their party decided that their races were not competitive and chose not to support them but nevertheless they persisted and fought an incredible race. And, while it was not fully the result we would have liked the ground that they gained was impressive. The candidates for Delegate have come quite close to the three incumbents, (making great strides from the last election where the closest Democrat for Delegate was 10,000 votes away from the Republican with the least votes). This year’s absentee, military and provisional ballots are still being counted and there is just a 145 vote margin in the Delegate race. This, despite being out fundraised by 300 %. And at the Senate level, Eve Hurwitz came within 8.7% of an incumbent who, until now, has run unopposed. Dawn Myers ran a wonderful campaign with her in-depth knowledge of budget and fiscal responsibility. Dana Schallheim won her campaign to be our first elected member of the Board of Education and we are very lucky to have her representing our children on an all-female BOE. All these brave women sent a clear message and we thank them. It is also clear that Mr. Pittman could not have won his race without such a strong slate of women running in District 33/5 and they can rightfully own this victory too.
We are so proud of WISE’s members throughout this process. They organized over 60 voter registration events reaching hundreds of unregistered people working, as we always do, with partner organizations where we can add value. They organized candidate forums and published scorecards around the issues women care most about. They researched and shared real facts contrasting candidate’s positions and shared them broadly. They wrote and sent several thousand postcards encouraging people to vote and even starred in videos encouraging neighbors to get out and vote for issues. They wrote letters to the Editor and OpEds and they had difficult conversations with friends and neighbors encouraging them to learn about the pool of candidates and to Get Out the Vote.
Thank you all for your role in this process of change. We all need to take some time to let Tuesday’s results sink in but, as one of our members wrote on Wednesday morning, some things are just true. We need to recognize how far we have come and how much you have all inspired the community we live in, “Now we’re empowered. We learned an awful lot about the whole political process. WISE Women are respected.” Indeed, we’ve learned that our voices matter. Individually and collectively we have impacted our schools, our county, our state and the larger national discourse. We have seized our power as citizens, owned our responsibility and have contributed in a sphere where we are needed. We are an integral part of a much greater whole.
We hope to see many of you at our November General Meeting on November 19th.It will be dedicated to celebrating the women who fought the brave fight. We will wine and dine them at Mezzanote from 7 pm onwards. You should all have received an evite with a link to buy a ticket. And, as we prepare our legislative brochure for 2019, we encourage you to think about how we can hold our newly elected representatives to account, particularly the new faces that share our values at the state and county level. We celebrate their victories and we will now hold them accountable for delivering on their commitments. We also encourage you to consider picking an issue about which you care deeply and joining a WISE huddle.
With our deep appreciation for every one of you. The friendships we have made and the growth of each individual member is what has always inspired us and what continues to push us forward.
Kathy, Jen, Monica and Rosie
(WISE Steering Committee)