Frequently asked questions about Georgia’s WIN List:
Why “WIN” in the WIN List name?
WIN stands for Women in Numbers. Further, our mission is to elect WINners! We believe Women In Numbers will elect Women In Numbers. Because, when Women vote, Women WIN!
What is a PAC?
PAC stands for Political Action Committee. A PAC pools contributions from supporters and donates those funds to campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. Georgia’s WIN List is a PAC with a specific focus on electing pro-choice women to the Georgia General Assembly and statewide office. Georgia’s WIN List was founded in 2000 and is modeled after the hugely successful national PAC, EMILY’s List. By the way, EMILY stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast: It makes the dough rise.
Why does WIN List support state legislator and executive branch incumbents and candidates but not mayors, city council members, county officials and commissioners, or school board members?
Many mayoral. city, county, and school board races in Georgia are non-partisan, but this varies widely. Further, city and county elected officials have little or nothing to do with choice issues with the rare exception being in matters of local zoning. Support for reproductive freedom is a primary determining factor for our endorsements. Further, our state-based board does not currently have the research capacity and bandwidth to make well-informed endorsement decisions on local elections which involve very specific issues germane only to a specific geographic area.
However, WIN List happily encourages those women who plan to seek local or county elected offices to attend our candidate training sessions or participate in our signature training program, the year-long WIN Leadership Academy. Upon request, we have also over the years offered technical support and advice to women seeking local office.
We see our investment in training those who run for local office as “priming the pipeline” because service at the local level often inspires later bids for legislative posts, statewide office, or congressional seats.
Does WIN List support judicial candidates?
First, judicial races are non-partisan. Further, the canons of judicial ethics regarding impartial decision making prohibit judges or candidates for judicial posts from making statements about issues which may come before them such as reproductive freedom. Therefore, with reproductive freedom as a guiding factor for our decisions, we could not submit surveys or conduct interviews for judicial candidates.
However, when a number of incumbent women judges at the statewide and local level were targeted by business interests in their re-election bids, WIN List stepped in. On a “behind the scenes” basis, we provided technical assistance to develop fundraising and campaign strategies for the targeted women judges and their staffs. Those in the WIN List donor network stepped up to financially support the targeted women judges, several of whom had never before faced opposition. With WIN List’s help, they all won!
Many women have run for Solicitor, District Attorney or judicial posts after attending WIN List candidate training sessions and we are happy to encourage those who see this as their chosen path for public service to attend our training sessions.
How do students interested in politics get involved?
Georgia’s WIN List encourages student involvement. WIN List always has a student rate for events and sometimes has free admission in exchange for volunteer assistance. Students may apply for WINternships to help with logistics of operating the PAC or to be assigned to an endorsed candidate’s campaign. Students wishing to learn more about the political process are welcome to contact WIN List to be connected with a legislator who has a need for interns or campaign assistance. WIN List is also happy to connect high school students with legislators who are willing to sponsor them as “Pages” for a day during the legislative session. The process of delivering messages to legislators puts young people inside the House or Senate chamber and allows them to see the legislative process firsthand.
Does WIN List get involved with voter registration drives?
Voter registration is especially important in potential swing districts with rapidly changing demographics. WIN List interns, staff, board members, and donors have been involved with voter registration efforts organized or sponsored by other groups over the years. WIN List does not directly sponsor voter registration drives, leaving that lane of the “progressive highway” to those who specialize in such efforts. We see WIN List as traveling in one lane of a broad highway with a progressive agenda for Georgia’s future. We are thrilled there are other groups alongside us on this progressive highway – particularly those with strength in voter registration. We will always support the efforts of other progressive groups whenever possible.
How do you recruit and choose WIN Leadership Academy Class members?
The WIN Leadership Academy is our flagship training program. The class year corresponds to the calendar year. Recruitment efforts for the following year’s class begin in the late fall. Members of the board or the executive director are always happy to meet with potential applicants to answer questions about the program or WIN List activities in general. Those who wish to participate submit an application and recommendation letters. Applications are carefully reviewed by a committee of board members who then propose a class roster for board approval. At times, phone interviews may be conducted for clarification if information on the application is unclear. All applications are available to the full board before a vote to approve the class. Efforts are made to balance the class for race, age, and geography. Scholarships are available for the class registration fee.
How do you choose which candidates to endorse?
The endorsement of candidates is the core of our mission and an obligation the board takes seriously. Georgia’s WIN List is often one of the first organizations to endorse once qualifying ends. Because the endorsement means money from WIN List and the women who comprise our donor network, an endorsement is not awarded lightly. Often, other groups follow the WIN List lead in making their own endorsements because we are respected for our rigorous process.
Georgia’s WIN List does not endorse in every race, especially for special elections or races for seats where there are several strong women candidates, all of whom are well qualified. We protect our currently endorsed elected women and do not encourage challengers. Only in the rarest of circumstances would WIN List become involved in a challenge to a male legislator with a record of protecting reproductive freedom. However, WIN List will endorse women running against sitting male (or female) legislators who have failed to protect choice. In 2016, a WIN List endorsed woman, Renitta Shannon, defeated a male incumbent who had “walked” on an important vote necessary to protect reproductive freedom.
Further, WIN List does not endorse merely for the “sake” of endorsing a Democratic woman. In districts where the historic Democratic Performance Index (DPI) precludes any chance for success, it is close to impossible for a Democrat to win, particularly in any district where the DPI is lower than 45 percent. Georgia’s gerrymandered district lines ensure there are plenty of those districts! We keep up with new voter registration statistics and closely monitor when a district might shift or “FLIP” to Democratic control with the right woman candidate.
For contested races where we feel WIN List support can make a difference, the women candidates are asked to complete an application which includes a pledge of support for reproductive freedom. Candidates also submit a campaign and fundraising plan. These documents are reviewed by the candidate committee which makes a recommendation to the full board for which candidates should be interviewed. The candidate committee conducts interviews which include all board members who wish to participate. Following the interviews, the candidate committee makes a recommendation for endorsements and the board votes on both the endorsement and the level of financial support.
Can’t the WIN List policy of “blanket support” for women over male candidates be dangerous?
WIN List does not blindly give “blanket support” to women candidates. The WIN List endorsement process is more rigorous than the process followed by most other progressive groups. We owe this process to our donors because we also ask them to support endorsed candidates with personal checks.
WIN List is a PAC targeted to statewide races and legislative seats with protection for reproductive freedom as the first test for endorsement. We do not get involved in races where pro-choice sitting male legislators are being challenged. We focus on electing “new faces” from open seats or seats in trending districts where a Republican — male or female — might be defeated by a woman candidate, often one we and other groups have recruited and trained.
Our first step in the endorsement process is a questionnaire, which is where some groups stop. We review questionnaires and then when warranted, schedule interviews between the candidate and three to five board members. Candidates submit a campaign plan, including fundraising projections. Our interview allows us to truly take a measure of those seeking office. Our endorsed candidates certainly get a check from WIN List but also receive technical support, checks from women in our donor network, volunteers, advice from current women legislators and promotion on social media and in our e-blasts to the full WIN List database.
One of the most exciting races for 2016 was a Gwinnett County house seat where the sitting male legislator retired. We endorsed Brenda Lopez, a young attorney who had completed our WIN Leadership Academy training program. Even though another woman was in the race, we decided to support Brenda because she was highly qualified, campaigned rigorously and was a perfect fit for the district, one of the state’s most demographically diverse. Brenda Lopez won with a healthy margin and became the first Latina’s elected from Georgia — a happy bonus, but not the basis for our decision.