Pennsylvania’s political accelerator for women scored a 100% win rate last night - Generocity Philly

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Nov. 8, 2017 1:57 pm

Pennsylvania’s political accelerator for women scored a 100% win rate last night

"This is the first real test of the resistance," said Emerge PA Executive Director Anne Wakabayashi. "Emerge is training the resistance right now."

Emerge Pennsylvania Class of 2017's graduation.

(Photo courtesy of Anne Wakabayashi)

Anne Wakabayashi corrected herself after answering my “How are you?” phone greeting with a standard “I’m good.”

“I’m awesome, actually.”

Understandable. Wakabayashi is the executive director of Emerge Pennsylvania, the local chapter of the national accelerator for Democratic women running for office, which just had a killer night: Six out of six alumnae who ran for office, including five members of the 2017 class and one from 2016, won their races.

  • Janet Diaz is now the first Latina to join Lancaster City Council
  • Susan Henderson-Utis joined the Rose Tree Media School Board
  • Deborah Kalina joined the Southern York School Board
  • Kristin Seale joined the Rose Tree Media School Board
  • Paige Strasbaugh joined the Woodland Hills School Board
  • Barbaranne Keffer joined the Upper Darby Council

Two Emerge PA board members also won their elections: Eileen Albillar (who was trained by Emerge Arizona) is now on Warrington’s board of supervisors, and Marita Garrett is now Wilkinsburg’s mayor.

Emerge saw success elsewhere in the country, too, including via the headline-grabbing Danica Roem, who just became Virginia’s first transgender state lawmaker after participating in Emerge Virginia’s training. The wave reflects national trends for the Democratic party up and down the ballot.

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For Callowhill resident Wakabayashi, Emerge PA’s biggest wins were those in Delaware and York counties, both historically red.

“Southern York County is Scott Wagner country,” she said, referring to the Republican firebrand running for Gov. Tom Wolf’s seat in 2018. “Those are Trump voters, those are Republicans. … It’s a huge deal that [Deborah Kalina] won that seat.”

Same goes for Roem’s win.

<em>Seale and Henderson-Utis of Delaware County. (Courtesy photo)</em>

Seale and Henderson-Utis of DelCo.

“This isn’t like winning in Center City Philadelphia,” where the uber-progressive civil rights attorney Larry Krasner just won the highly publicized district attorney race, Wakabayashi said. “These are not overwhelmingly progressive seats. These wins signal a real hunger for a different type of elected official.”

(Rebecca Reinhart also made local history by becoming the first woman elected as Philadelphia’s controller.)

For each cohort, Emerge PA trains Democratic women new to politics over six months, with two trainings in Philadelphia, two in Pittsburgh and two in Harrisburg.

Emerge also fosters a support system, “providing them with a network to counter the old boys’ network” of traditional politics, she said. That’s meant alumnae who live in Centre County knocking on doors for alumnae running in Delaware County, and fundraising for candidates in each corner of the state.

An average cohort will see 40 to 50 applicants vying for 25 spots. Wakabayashi said 2017’s class gained a whopping 100 applications, and the national network saw an 87 percent increase overall — which Wakabayashi decidedly attributes to backlash from the 2016 presidential election.

“This was the first real test of the resistance, and Emerge is training the resistance right now,” she said. Many applications this year have been from women organizing protests, like Philly’s Tuesdays with Toomey, across the state. “Are these protests going to turn into actual electoral results? Are these people actually going to vote? I think that was answered last night when women overwhelmingly won and progressives overwhelmingly won and Democrats have won in places they have not won, ever.”

Next up is 2018, when Wakabayashi expects even more Emerge alumnae to announce candidacies.

“You can imagine, we’ve been having a really tough year,” she said. “It’s very nice to see what we did is working.”

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Julie Zeglen

Julie Zeglen is the editor of Generocity. Previous to joining the Technically Media team, she served as managing editor of Star Community Newsweekly, a hyperlocal newspaper focused on Philadelphia’s River Wards. The Temple alumna lives in West Philly.

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