Women in Berkshire County are learning the ins and outs of what it means to run for political office this weekend.
There’s a statistic that doesn’t sit right with Helen Moon.
“In Massachusetts, we have 28.5 percentage of women that is part of the Massachusetts state legislature," said Moon. "That is not acceptable. Especially considering we pride ourselves on being a state that is first in everything. We’re first in gay marriage, we had Obamacare before Obamacare, so we’re really proud of being on the progressive cutting edge, and yet in terms of equity in politics, we’re not even close.”
Moon is one of the co-presidents of the Berkshires’ Chapter of The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus. It’s mission?
“Recruit, train, and elect women in and around Berkshire County,” recites Moon.
The group was founded by Amy Diamond and now-Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington after the 2016 election. This year, it’s introducing its first annual Campaign Bootcamp 101 event.
“It includes messaging – having the right message to deliver to the right crowd at the right time all the time," said Moon. "It also includes a management portion – campaigns are not run in isolation, you need a team of volunteers. So how do you engage volunteers to join your team and stay on your team? And of course, money. Unfortunately, money rules politics. So how do you raise money, how do you report what you’re raising, so kind of the campaign finance portion of it.”
The training’s last component is about mobilization.
“That’s your field, knocking on doors, phone banking, and a GOTV section – which is ‘get out the vote,’” explains Moon.
Moon knows a lot about the realities of running for office as a woman. She’s currently preparing her campaign for a second term as Pittsfield’s Ward 1 city councilor, and was on the team behind Harrington’s successful campaign for DA in 2018.
“What we hear a lot is, ‘you’re not qualified,’ ‘what experiences do you have that make you qualified.’ And I feel like women are put in a place where you’re not judged for the capacity that you can achieve, you’re not judged on your potential, but you’re judged on the lack of what people in power or people who are influential say is the right experience,” said the city councilor.
Moon says that gatekeeping is particularly hard on women.
“A lot of women are still impacted by being at home raising their families, and so you may not have the relevant experience to run for office but that home life experience is also incredibly relevant and should not keep somebody for running for office," she told WAMC. "So I think we need to change the dialogue around what is a qualifier for running for office. We are residents contributing to this community, that makes me qualified to run for office.”
“If you look at many elected offices, the next one up – the candidates that take over that office and ultimately win were mentored by their predecessors," said Dina Guiel Lampiasi. "So for women, we don’t necessarily have that opportunity.”
Guiel Lampiasi runs the group alongside Moon. Also a member of the Harrington 2018 team, Guiel Lampiasi ran unsuccessfully for Pittsfield’s Ward 2 city council seat in 2017 and is now running for Ward 6, whose councilor isn’t seeking another term.
“When we look at what does it mean to recruit, it’s this event – it’s asking women that have even considered running for office to show up," said Guiel Lampiasi. "Come and learn what it’s about. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be the candidates. Maybe they will be the fundraisers. Maybe the women that attend this training will be the campaign managers or the social media managers – all the different jobs that that campaign could possible have.”
Moon says the MWPC’s larger mission isn’t just about winning elections – it’s about making women a part of a political culture that has excluded them for too long.
“It’s about moving our country and our state and our local politics to a place where we’re no longer talking about whether losing seats if a woman does not get elected, we have one less woman on the city council," said Moon. "It’s about looking at the city council – maybe one day it’ll be all women.”
The Berkshire Chapter of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus is holding its Campaign Bootcamp 101 training at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield at 1 p.m. Sunday.