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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 women – WINners! We believe Women In Numbers can elect Women In Numbers. When Women vote, Women WIN!
What is a PAC?
PAC stands for Political Action Committee. A PAC pools campaign 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 are non-partisan, but this varies widely. Further, city and county elected officials have little or nothing to do with choice issues with the 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 band-width to make well-informed endorsement decisions on local elections which involve very specific issues germane only to that 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, state wide 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 choice as a guiding factor for our decisions, we could not properly submit surveys or conduct interviews of judicial candidates.
However, when a number of women judges were targeted by business interests in the late 1990’s, 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 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 the progressive highway – particularly those with strength in voter registration. We will always 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 with the calendar year. Recruitment efforts for the next 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.
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 closes. 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 does 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 choice vote.
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 in any district where the DPI is lower than 45 percent. Georgia’s gerrymandered district lines insure there are plenty of those districts! We keep up with new voter registration statistics and closely monitor when a district is open to shifting 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 most 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 of 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.
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 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.
In another district, where one of our endorsed women stepped down to seek another office, three highly qualified candidates declared — two of them male. WIN List happily endorsed Janine Brown based on the strength of her resume, including a long record of advocacy and her experience in negotiating large contracts for the communications workers union. Some of our board members knew and were friends with the two young men also seeking the seat, but our mission guides our process despite personal friendships. Janine Brown advanced to the runoff, but ultimately lost.